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Cover Story

Will the BCCI clip Tweety bird's wings?

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ENOUGH, OR MORE? A miffed BCCI could read the riot act on Lalit Modi

The Lalit Modi-Shashi Tharoor spat over IPL's Kochi franchise highlights the pitfalls of promoting a pseudo-corporate culture in a game that has largely failed to shed its amateur garb. But, if this latest spat has caused embarrassment all around, much of the blame has to be shouldered by the BCCI.

After all, there were signs of trouble right from the start when the BCCI decided to add two new teams to the cash-rich T20 league. That the first auction for the new franchises had to be abandoned on technical grounds not only raised questions about the credibility of the IPL governing council, but crucially, also its lack of transparency in carrying out its functions.

The timely intervention by the BCCI resulted in a bigger windfall -- a whopping $703 million -- with two new teams being picked at a second auction. But the loose ends were not tied up. The current Modi-Tharoor spat originates from one such thread that can be traced back to the failed bid of the backers of an Ahmedabad-based franchise at the abandoned auction.

Tweeting is not yet BCCI's idea of the carrier pigeon. It was tolerant of Modi's constant tweets as long as they were not related to policy issues. But when the tech-eager Modi violated the confidentiality clause and revealed the identity of the owners of the Kochi franchise on Twitter -- including that of Tharoor's friend Sunanda Pushkar -- and also disclosed the size of Pushkar's stake in the franchise, it shook the BCCI out of its stupor.

Watch out for another interesting round of fireworks, this time when the IPL governing council meets next week. Sparks should fly. Expect BCCI to read the riot act to Modi -- he could be reprimanded and stripped of most of his powers. Simply put, Lalit Modi may lose his "primo-supremo" status implying that he may no longer be able to take any independent decisions on IPL issues.

The governing council will, however, continue to run the IPL. More powers will be bestowed to adjudicate on all matters pertaining to the tournament.

Whether or not the drama at the council meeting deviates much from this script, the fact remains that Modi is no longer on a strong wicket vis-a-vis the BCCI. In a 30-member Indian board, the IPL supremo does not even have his own vote after losing the Rajasthan Cricket Association polls, and while everyone salutes his IPL initiative that continues to fill the coffers of every state association, he has never been a very popular figure within the BCCI.

Of course, he has his backers, but only time will tell whether they will stick with him when push comes to shove. In the quirky world of BCCI politics, where there are no permanent friends or foes and compromises are struck at the drop of a hat, making predictions can be hazardous.

What we can stick our necks out on is that, despite all the claims and counter-claims, Team Kochi will take the field in IPL-4. Insiders say the consortium's technical and financial bids were found to be impeccable. Unless, highly miffed, they themselves decide to call the whole thing off. Wait and see.

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