The auction for IPL 2019 is history and the focus has immediately shifted to how the Supreme Court-appointed chief Administrator, Vinod Rai, will respond to the cutting down to size of Rahul Johri, CEO of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
Across the board, Johri is seen as Rai’s blue-eyed boy.
During the auction, at a JW Marriott property on NH 11, on Tuesday, Johri was neither allowed to deliver the inaugural/welcome address nor was he given a seat on the podium when the proceedings began.
With all three office-bearers of the Board — Chandra Kishore Khanna, Amitabh Choudhary and Anirudh Chaudhry — in complete agreement, Administrator Diana Edulji took charge at the pre-auction briefing (on Monday night) and immediately before and during the bidding for the 351 players.
According to well-placed sources of The Telegraph, the office-bearers too weren’t allowed to sit on the podium during the briefing. That, of course, changed at the start of the auction proper.
Johri was snubbed with a capital S.
For the past many months, the office-bearers have been at war with Johri, while Diana has also had major differences with the CEO. In fact, she wanted him sacked or compelled to resign as soon as the first allegation of sexual harassment surfaced against him.
Rai didn’t agree with Diana and, unilaterally, constituted an inquiry committee which returned a 2-1 verdict in Johri’s favour.
While Diana and Johri weren’t on the same page from the first half of the year, the allegations of sexual harassment led to a complete breakdown in communication between the two. Matters only got worse when Rai refused to implement even the recommendations of Veena Gowda, the dissenting member of the inquiry committee.
In wanting to settle scores with Diana, Johri (or, was it GM Syed Saba Karim or both?) leaked ODI captain Mithali Raj’s email which damned Diana and Ramesh Powar, who was head coach of the India women’s team till last month’s World T20.
There’s such an undercurrent of hostility that Johri didn’t greet Diana at the pre-auction briefing and, one learns, no words were exchanged on the day of the auction either.
Well, Johri should have been respectful towards Diana. She is, after all, a Supreme Court appointee and he is just an employee of the Board. But, then, Johri probably believes he can get away with anything as he has Rai’s blessings.
Indeed, had Rai broken with tradition and turned up for the auction, it’s possible that Johri would have delivered either the inaugural/welcome address or the vote of thanks.
That Rai stays away from the IPL auctions gave Diana the opportunity to assert herself and, in the process, send out a message to those who have been after her blood.
Reflecting on the auction, Diana had this to say while speaking exclusively from Mumbai: “Everything went off smoothly as, at the end of the day, the feedback from the franchisees was very good…
“I’d like to make special mention of Ms Nita Ambani, owner of the Mumbai Indians, who personally came up to me and said she was delighted that, for the first time, a woman had set the ball rolling at an IPL auction. It was a wonderful gesture on Ms Ambani’s part.”
Diana, however, declined to comment on Johri having actually walked out of the auction.
That Johri left the venue while the proceedings were still on, has attracted the ire of quite a few in the Board.
“Johri should be asked for an explanation as he disrespected the Board, Diana, its office-bearers, the franchisees and the process of the auction. He cannot act as if he’s bigger than the institution, when a global event is being organised by it,” somebody very senior told this Reporter.