Kochi franchise complains to BCCI about Modi

Mahela Jayawardene drives on his way to a century Indian Premier League

The Dubai-based chairman of the Kochi franchise has said the team has sent a formal complaint to the BCCI about suspended IPL commissioner Lalit Modi.

In an interview with the National, an Abu Dhabi-based daily, Harshad Mehta claimed Modi attempted to discourage the consortium from bidding for the new franchise. "He told us that so many partners can't handle a team. We listened to whatever he had to say. He is the IPL chairman. We listened and we kept our cool."

The consortium of practically unknown businessmen bid US$333.33 million to win one of the two new franchises, surprising everyone involved, including Modi, who subsequently set off a media firestorm by questioning the shareholding pattern of the consortium on the micro-blogging site Twitter. The ensuing controversy eventually led to Modi's suspension as commissioner and the resignation of junior external affairs minister Shashi Tharoor, who was acting as a mentor to the bidding group.

Mehta opened up about the shareholding fiasco, which centred on a 4.7% stake given to Sunanda Pushkar, a close friend of Tharoor's, as "sweat equity". He said Pushkar, a former sales manager of real estate company Tecom, was given a stake because the investors were convinced she could attract sponsors.

"Sweat equity has been misunderstood by everyone," Mehta said. "It has zero value initially. If I think an employee has potential and can bring money and support to the team, I can offer the person sweat equity. It is available in any part of the world. The BCCI says we can give 100% sweat equity if we want, to anybody. There was no need for him [Modi] to raise such alarm."

However, Mehta admitted Pushkar had probably been given a relatively high share, and even though she has returned her stake and no longer has anything to do with the team, the management decided to reduce the total amount of free equity in the franchise across the board. "We realised that the proportion we gave was too much, so we backed out. Now the team has only 11 to 12% of sweat equity."

While Pushkar is no longer associated with the team, Mehta said Tharoor would continue to play a part. "Shashi will still be our mentor. We require his help to run this team."

The Kochi team has now turned its attention to the running of the franchise. Mehta revealed the team's interest in Sri Lankan cricketer Mahela Jayawardane, who currently plays for the Kings XI Punjab. "I like Mahela personally and have a very good relation with him," Mehta said.

"I was the first person to take him outside Sri Lanka to play in South Africa. My relation with him is over 20 years now. If he is available and if I have a successful bid, he will be part of the Kochi team."

According to Mehta, Kerala native Sreesanth, who also plays for Kings XI Punjab, has already committed to joining the team in 2011. "He is the best bowler but not very mature," said Mehta. "He must have a target and everything will be good."

Meanwhile, the core of the team will be composed primarily of players from Gujarat and Delhi. "We'll take lot of players from Gujarat and mostly we are taking from Delhi," said Mehta. "We are very keen on Delhi. They are very good fighters."