The public spat between the IPL commissioner Lalit Modi and Minister of State for External Affairs Sashi Tharoor took a serious turn on Tuesday, with the minister saying Modi's Twitter posts are "an extraordinary breach of all propriety", designed to discredit the Indian Premier League's Kochi franchise, Rendezvous Sports World.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India took a serious view of the developments, which could have ramifications beyond the IPL, and decided to convene a meeting of the Twenty20 league's Governing Council within 10 days to discuss the episode.
Arun Lakshman caught up with Kerala Cricket Association secretary T C Mathew for his take on the controversy.
Kochi has got an IPL team and now controversies are following. Today there is a major war of words between IPL commissioner Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor, Union Minister of State for External Affairs, on the team. What is your take on the issue?
We are very happy that Kochi has got an IPL team, and for this we are extremely thankful to the role played by Dr Shashi Tharoor, who himself said he would be mentor of the team .
However, I totally disagree with the controversies; they are just unfounded. The Kerala Cricket Association has nothing to do with such controversies, which could take away the positive aspect of cricket for Kerala.
Dr Tharoor has played a major role in bringing together the consortium partners and his effort has to be recognised. We at the Kerala Cricket Association will fight against any forces trying to sabotage the Kochi IPL team.
Are you indirectly targeting the IPL commissioner, Lalit Modi?
A big no to this question. In fact, Lalit Modi called me the other day and offered all help in developing the team. I had personally met him during the bid of Rendzevous Sports for the IPL team at Mumbai, and later at Chennai and Bangalore during the matches. He was very cordial and supportive in the bid of the Kochi team. I feel there are certain forces trying to create a mountain out of a hole; these forces will finally have to withdraw, as all the consortium partners have expressed their desire to develop the Kochi IPL team into a world-class one.
Kerala is a state where cricket is not a major sport. In other words, Kerala's state cricket team hasn't done well in national league matches, yet you got a Kochi team. Will this benefit the game in the state and its current players?
Of course, the game, infrastructure and players will all benefit from the Kochi IPL team. The interest in the game will develop manifold and sports enthusiasts will treat the Kochi IPL team as their own. This would mean more fans and more followers in every nook and corner of the state. This will benefit cricket in the state immensely. I mean, cricket in all forms and in all areas.
What is lacking in Kerala cricket?
Kerala is a state with a rich sports history. However, cricket is still a virgin game in the state, even though you can find enthusiasts and players across it.
For instance, we have only two cricketing icons: S.Sreesanth and Tinu Yohannan, who had represented the country at the senior national level. The inclusion of these players in the national team has, in fact, generated lot of interest in the game in the state. With the Kochi IPL management already declaring that it will give preference to players from the state, it means more players from the state will get national and international exposure.
Do you have a stadium of your own? Owning an IPL team requires an own stadium
We will be using the Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) stadium for the next five years. A cricket stadium of Kerala Cricket Association is coming up in 24 acres of land near Kochi; it will be functional soon.
Does the Kerala Cricket Association have any specific goals for developing the game in the state, since the IPL team for Kochi is now a reality?
Yes, we have already announced 'Mission 20-20' for Kerala cricket. Please note that this is mission and not vision. This means that we are on track at a designated time frame.
We have a ten-year programme for development of the game and taking it to the grass root level. We have an international cricket stadium in the pipeline, national standard cricket stadiums in all the 14 districts of the state and more than one stadium in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi.
To take into consideration the intermittent rain in the state (Kerala has almost six months of rain a year) we are bringing out indoor stadiums through out the state and cricket academies in all its 14 districts. We have already conducted several rounds of discussions with the state educational officers on the modalities of the CASH KERALA, which means Cricket Academy and Sports Hostel for students who are interested in playing cricket in the state. We are targeting students in the age group of 12 to 16 for this.