In huge IPL shake-up, Rajasthan and Kings are axed


Mumbai: The money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL) was shaken up Sunday when the Indian cricket board booted out Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab from the tournament for violating the franchise pact while giving the new Kochi franchise 10 days to set its house in order.

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Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty, co-owner of Rajasthan Royals along with London-based husband Raj Kundra, said she was “too shocked to react” while Australian Shane Warne, who led the team to lift the first IPL trophy in 2008, said he was shattered.

A co-owner of Kings XI is another Bollywood actress, Priety Zinta, who expressed disgust.

Disgraced IPL founder Lalit Modi accused the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) of attemptig to destroy brand IPL.

“The Governing Council (of IPL) sought legal opinion and came to the conclusion that the contracts of the Rajasthan and Punjab franchises needs to be cancelled for the violation of the franchise agreement,” BCCI chief Shashank Manohar announced here.

The decisions against the three teams were taken unanimously, he said. Manohar clarified that the Kochi franchise had not breached its agreement with the IPL and had thus been given 10 days to right its flaws.

“There are some internal disputes (in Kochi). The decision to terminate the contract of Punjab and Rajasthan franchises were taken based on legal opinion and the breaches committed by these franchises,” Manohar told reporters wanting to know why Kochi had been treated differently.

Sunday’s decision came six months after Modi’s decision to question the ownership of the Kochi franchise triggered a huge row leading to the resignation of Shahsi Tharoor from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government.

Modi had sought to question the ownership pattern of the Kochi franchise. Sunanda Pushkar, now the wife of Tharoor, owned free equity in Rendezvous Sports World, the company that had acquired the team for $333 million.

While Pushkar gave up her equity, the controversy also cost Modi the chairmanship of IPL after virtually the entire BCCI, the country’s richest sports body, turned against him.

On Sunday,the Kerala Cricket Assocation hoped the row over the Kochi franchise would soon be resolved.

“To the best of my knowledge, whatever slight difference of opinion the partners had, has been settled and they are working together to see that the team becomes a reality,” KCA secretary T.C. Mathew told IANS.

Earlier this year, the income tax authorities began a wide-ranging probe into the Kochi team to ascertain if its money had been channeled illegally from tax havens abroad.

Simultaneous but more sweeping probes were also launched against Modi.

The Enforcement Directorate recently issued a “blue corner” notice against Modi after he failed to appear for questioning.

In response, Modi said he could be quizzed in London, where he now lives apparently fearing for his life in India.

Asked about the breaches by Rajasthan Royals, Manohar said: “They had a different bidder during auctions. The agreement was entered in the name of a different company. The shareholding patterns were different and then the shares were transferred to different people without the permission of the Governing Council.”

He denied that the action had to do with the proximity of Modi with the suspended franchises. “The decisions were not taken due to any person,” he said.

The showcause notice the BCCI issued to Modi after he was suspended did refer to his alleged stake in the Rajasthan Royals.

A furious Shilpa Shetty tweeted Sunday: “This is for all those who want my reaction ‘Honestly too shocked to react, just disheartened… cause it’s more than just a team for us! Still havn’t received the termination, will react after. Need to know the basis of this decision.'”

Shane Warne said: “Just woke up to news that Royals and Kings out of IPL 4, don’t know anything yet, flying back to Australia… it’s a big shock for Royals, will hopefully get to the bottom of it all.”

Business tycoon Vijay Mallya, who owns the Royal Challengers Bangalore IPL team, called the action “downright ridiculous and raises serious questions on the attitude of the BCCI towards IPL franchisees”.