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Malay Desai

Malay Desai is a feature writer with a penchant for travel, food and test cricket. But as none of those pay his credit card bills, he runs the content firm Punchlines.'

Jilted lover, rogue flirter: Sahara & BCCI’s Valentine’s Day drama

Just when I was deleting unopened press releases peddling 'Valentine Day packages' and frowning upon the prospect of there being no striking spectacle this February (I nearly booked tickets to Karan Johar's rom-com film), I was hit by the most tumultuous love story of recent time. There it was, on Cricinfo on a fine Saturday morning, the divorce papers of Sahara Pariwar versus the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)! Indian cricket’s biggest sponsor and owner of IPL’s costliest team had ‘pulled the plug’.

And although most of the media used that drab electronic metaphor in their reports, I figured that it was a shorter option for ‘dumped and publicly ridiculed following a steamy relationship'. That was last weekend, and cut to V-Day today, when the dumped party is trying to resume ties with the miffed ex, which has in turn already announced multiple rebounds, things can never be better for a feisty tale of romance and cheating.

Firstly, the letter. Just about 24 paragraphs and over a dozen bullet points long, it was the press release equivalent of that Hangover guy ‘Stu’ dumping his constantly controlling wife in the climax. Read it carefully and the years of heartache will unravel, almost in first person. Having got into the relationship on ‘primarily emotional’ reasons, Sahara said, it repeatedly bore its brute, egotistic partner’s ill-treatment, a la a silent sufferer of a love marriage gone wrong.

Besides saying “..our emotions were never appreciated and many genuine situations were not given due consideration at all,” the writer Sushanto, son of Sahara patriarch Subrata, gave instances of the same, such as the logo fiasco in the '03 World Cup, Pune’s delayed entry into the IPL and more. Read the letter with Coming back to Life playing in the background and you might hear Sushanto’s stifled sobs in-between paragraphs.

This impasse won’t end even as the season of love does. Reuters

This split, however, wouldn’t have been as ugly if there was no dowry involved. We assume the bride's father, Subrata, would be rightfully furious that after paying around Rs 800 crores as sponsorship and 1,700 crores to buy the Pune team, his pariwar was repeatedly snubbed on ‘whims and fancies of BCCI’ whereas in an ideal world, it deserved respect like every Indian player saying ‘Sahara pranam’ after every wicket or boundary.

The result: it took a typical ‘we don’t have any information’ response from the Board (I was reminded of that innocent look the boys on the reality show Emotional Atyachar give when they’re caught cheating) before it could respond to this public split, but it eventually happened that Monday.

‘BCCI extends hand, Sahara plans a date’ said the following Cricinfo piece, featuring father of the brat (BCCI Chairman) N Srinivasan who knows his ill-bred offspring well, yet claims, ‘We’ve had an excellent relationship with Sahara for the last 12 years.’ The ‘badey chacha’ of the family, Rajeev Shukla, meanwhile had a torrid time at the annual family get-together, the IPL auction when the whole community knew about the split and he had to pretend all was well with the hosts.

Meanwhile, as our news channels and papers played the roles of pesky neighbours and chachis relishing every new gossip, the hurt party, in a spree of rebounds, strengthened ties with its old, troubled partner the hockey team and promised a several programmes for ‘other sports’ too. Its helping of ‘underprivileged youngsters of India’ was a clear call — ‘Let not the brides of the future suffer but fight this injustice’. Even the letter had claimed that ‘every year minimum 10 crores will be distributed. Three crores for cricketers, seven crores for all other disciplines’. Wound, meet salt.

And amidst all this, Lalit Modi, the famous mistress of the dumped party joined in the badmouthing, and wrote this brute of a blog post apart from going to the press. A bit like a Sach ka Saamna contestant baring it all even if he’s not winning any prize money for it, I thought.

Closer to Valentine’s Day, things got spicier. ‘BCCI, Sahara to meet on weekend’, Cricinfo updated. And while their children were busy appearing for exams in Australia, our attention was on their guardians and their ‘top-level’ talks. Unfortunately, none of them revealed to the media then what transpired but the fact that Srinivasan, Shukla AND the treasurer Sundar Raman went up to Subrata and son was a clear hint that the meet might have featured foot massages and shoulder rubs from one side and upwardly held noses deliberate phone calls to new lovers from the other.

Today, as I read what issues were ‘discussed’ then and that the Working Committee of the dumped party has sent fresh proposals (albeit, ‘as per the rules’) to woo it back, it seems that the rogue flirt is not giving up its brash ways after all. Which means that this impasse won’t end even as the season of love does. And that either means a bitter settlement and divorce or tough compromises and reunion. I’m just hoping the kids don’t suffer.

Happy Valentine’s Day!