New Delhi - India's
cash-rich cricket board threatened on Tuesday to cancel the first Test
against England, less than 24 hours before it was due to begin, unless
its bank accounts were unfrozen.
The supreme court last month ruled that the board would have to seek
prior approval from a special panel investigating its governance in
order to release funds to state associations which host Test matches.
But in a petition filed to the apex court on the eve of the start of
the first Test in Rajkot, the Board of Control for Cricket in India
(BCCI) said the order meant it was impossible to cover the match's
"Unless money is disbursed to the board, the match between India and
England can't take place," said the petition, which is scheduled to be
heard later in the day.
The court slapped the restrictions on the BCCI's accounts after the
board, which is one of the world's wealthiest sports bodies, failed to
implement a series of reforms that had been recommended by a panel
headed by a former top judge, Rajendra Mal Lodha.
The Lodha panel has accused BCCI officials of "behaving like lords",
after they repeatedly ignored the deadlines to implement reforms of what
is world cricket's wealthiest and most powerful board.
In its submission challenging Tuesday's petition, the panel said that
the BCCI was in contempt of court by not implementing its
recommendations which include age limits for office-holders.
The BCCI had earlier complained that the funding freeze was hampering
organisation for a series last month against New Zealand, but the three
Tests went ahead as scheduled in the end.
The BCCI has insisted it is not "running
away" from implementing the reforms after scandals including accusations
of corruption and match-fixing that tarnished the Indian Premier League
India and England are due to play five Test matches in November and
December as well as a limited over series early in the new year.
Both teams are already in Rajkot and have been holding nets ahead of the start of the series.
Cricket's massive popularity in India has helped the BCCI become by
far the wealthiest of all of cricket's national boards, netting massive
money from sponsorship and TV deals.
The BCCI has put the value of the IPL brand at $4.5 billion and its
current sponsorship deal for the tournament with the mobile phone
company Vivo is worth $60 million.
Its last television rights deal with the Star network was worth a reported $750 million.
But despite its rude financial health, the board has regularly found
itself embroiled in scandal in recent years, ultimately leading to the
formation of the Lodha committee.
A corruption and match-fixing scandal in the sixth edition of the IPL
in 2013 brought about the downfall of the board's president
Narayanaswami Srinivasan after his son-in-law was accused of betting on
Two of the eight franchises in the IPL were suspended as a result of
the scandal, including the Chennai Super Kings which was owned by
Srinivasan's India Cements company.