|Celebs at last year’s OPL
Cuttack/Bhubaneswar, May 2: The second edition of the Odisha Premier League (OPL) has been cancelled this year following lack of enthusiasm on part of the franchise owners. Secretary of the Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) Ashirbad Behera today said they were forced to cancel the cricket league since three franchisees had already pulled out and they had not found any takers for its proposal to invite new franchisees.
“We have decided not to host the OPL this time as three franchisees had opted out of the tournament following some problems in the first edition. We had extended the dates till April 30 for the remaining seven team owners to submit caution money towards franchise renewal and for interested individuals to apply for franchises but got no response,” said Behera.
On April 30, The Telegraph had reported about uncertainty prevailing over the second season of OPL with the OCA’s top officials conceding that the event might not be held at all. They said that apart from franchisees’ lack of interest, the league might be called off as the association would remain busy in organising the Santosh Trophy matches at Barabati Stadium between May 11 and 27 and then the monsoons would set in, making it difficult to conduct the OPL matches.
“OPL has not been stopped but dropped this year. We will chalk out a new format and ensure that the tournament remains free of all controversies. We are planning to rope in big corporate houses and check the antecedents of the individuals and organisations taking part in the tournament. OPL will return next year bigger and better,” said OCA president and former Team India manager Ranjib Biswal.
“Franchise owners said they “burnt their fingers in the experiment (OPL)” and were not willing to take part because they had drawn negative publicity. Vigilance sleuths had come up with evidence of black money having been invested in OPL and said the money trail had led to three to four mine owners against whom cases of illegal mining had been pending.
“Not only the franchise owners, but the association was also victimised because of the controversies. We had launched OPL with the noble intention of providing a platform to budding cricketers, but the raids sent a wrong message to the people,” Behera said.
A team owner, on condition of anonymity, said some of the remaining franchisees did not want to take part in the event because of substandard arrangements made by the OCA in the inaugural edition last year. “Besides, the teams are yet to receive their share of profits from the association,” he said.
The proceeds from the last season amounted to Rs 1.19 crore, of which 50 per cent was supposed to be given for charity and the rest to be equally distributed among the 10 franchise owners.
Sources close to the Berhampur team said teams such as Katak Barabati Tiger, JSP Sparks (Jagatsinghpur) and Cooperative Kings Dhenkanal owned by controversial persons were also under the vigilance scanner and their participation would have been in doubt even if the OCA had decided to conduct the league this year.
Players, who featured in the tournament last year, expressed disappointment at the news of the tournament being cancelled. Ranji player Nataraj Behera, who had captained the champion team — Western Samurai (Rourkela) — in OPL-I, said: “Apart from the name, fame and money, the league had brought to the fore many talented cricketers such as Govind Poddar, Amit Das, Ranjit Singh and Subhit Biswal. They had caught the attention of state selectors. People had started recognising new players. I am deeply disappointed that OPL won’t be held this year.”