21 Sep 2017
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Is Subhash Chandra turning a rebel again to challenge cricket’s existing power structure?

MUMBAI: Indian media mogul Subhash Chandra is planning a return to the cricket pitch as a rebel, this time probably on a much larger scale.

Threatening to split world cricket, Chandra-helmed Essel Group has begun registering companies with names that appear to be rival national cricket boards.

Subhash Chandra

Subhash Chandra

His design could throw up a challenge to the power structure enjoyed by the cricket boards of India, England and Australia.

Chandra, whose rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) ended its innings in 2009 after starting in 2007, is said to have teamed up with the architect of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Lalit Modi to start a cricket project the contours of which are not known.

Incidentally, Modi was at the forefront of the kill ICL campaign of the BCCI. As the IPL commissioner then, he was obviously opposed to Chandra creating a flourishing rebel T20 format league.

Lalit_ModiThere is no official confirmation on Modi’s role. When Guardian reported that the International Cricket Council (ICC) has launched an urgent investigation after Essel Group, the company behind the now-defunct ICL, began registering companies in the names of cricket boards, Modi tweeted: “About time this happened.” Reacting to the Mumbai Mirror article about his possible involvement in the project, he wrote: “Interesting story – no comments thou.”

Chandra has long wanted to disrupt the cricket economy. Running a fleet of sports channels under Ten Sports, he does not have the rights to telecast international cricket played in India which is with Star, and the IPL which is with Multi Screen Media (MSM). Star also has the rights to show international matches played in Australia and England.

Chandra’s TV rights extend to the five boards – South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

Himanshu Modi, who was involved in the ICL project, is playing an active role in the new plan. Dean Kino, the brain behind the T20 Champions League and a former Cricket Australia official, is also said to be involved in shaping the Essel Group-led project.

Himanshu Modi was not available for comment. When contacted by TelevisionPost.com, Ten Sports CEO Rajesh Sethi said that he was unaware of the development.

Meanwhile, a report in ‘The Guardian’ noted that the Chandra issue was discussed during last week’s ICC board meeting in Dubai, as was the recent registration of website domain names, including worldcricketcouncil.co.in, by an employee of Ten Sports.

The report added that Cricket Australia was the first body to be alerted to the issue last December and has subsequently objected to the registration of Australia Cricket Control Ltd by the subsidiary Essel Corporation Mauritius. New Zealand Cricket has issued similar proceedings against the establishment of New Zealand Cricket Ltd, Kiwi Cricket Ltd and Aotearoa Cricket Ltd (after the Maori name for the country) by the same company.

Cricket Scotland, an ICC associate member, has found itself similarly involved, with the board aware of a company being set up in Edinburgh under the name of Cricket Control Scotland Ltd. Cricket Scotland wrote to its founder earlier this year to seek an explanation, setting a deadline of 6 April for a response, but has not heard back.

The report quotes a Cricket Australia spokesperson as saying, “We’re certainly aware of the registration. It is a concern but the ICC has been informed and the matter is being investigated. It’s difficult to say more until we have more information.”

Another report in ‘Mumbai Mirror’ quoted Kino as saying, “I am reading a lot of interesting reports in the media. But I am not involved [in this project].”

A committee comprising chairman N Srinivasan, Giles Clarke of England, and Wally Edwards of Australia has been formed to investigate the matter, and in particular, the role of Lalit Modi and Essel Group.

In the past, Zee has been frustrated in its efforts to have a strong footing in India cricket. It tried the ICL several years ago but lost the battle to the IPL.