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IPL set to lose its Ringmaster

NEW DELHI: Embattled Indian Premier League chief Lalit Modi faces the axe this week, possibly on Monday (today), as allegations of corruption swirl around the money-spinning tournament.

The Indian cricket board (BCCI), which owns the IPL, has made up its mind to sack Modi after the government launched a tax probe into alleged financial irregularities in the high-profile Twenty20 event.

“Either Modi goes on his own, or he will be pushed out,” a senior member of the tournament’s governing council told AFP. “His position as IPL chief has become untenable.”

The BCCI has called an emergency meeting of the IPL’s governing council in Mumbai on Monday to discuss allegations that include unsubstantiated media reports of match-fixing in the tournament.

There have been several indications over the past few days that Modi’s days are numbered.

The board’s top brass, including president Shashank Manohar and secretary N Srinivasan, skipped the IPL awards ceremony on Friday night ahead of Sunday’s final of the tournament’s third edition.

Of the 14 members of the IPL governing council, only three — former India great Sunil Gavaskar, ex-BCCI chief Inderjit Singh Bindra and Modi — attended the ceremony in Mumbai.

Other glaring absentees were superstar Sachin Tendulkar, even though he won both the best batsman and best captain awards, and current national skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Some media reports have suggested Modi may himself step down after Sunday’s final to avoid further embarrassment.

Modi could also lose his post as chairman of the T20 Champions League, a club tournament jointly organised by the cricket boards of India, Australia and South Africa.

The ruthlessly ambitious and brash Modi has run the IPL like a personal fiefdom, signing lucrative deals as sponsors tumbled over each other to join the party.

The tournament, a spectacular mix of the country’s favourite sport and glamour, is already estimated to have a brand value of four billion dollars.

The tax probe began after junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor was forced to resign over claims that his girlfriend was given a free stake worth 15 million dollars in a new franchise.

Details of the ownership of the team in the southern city of Kochi were leaked on microblogging website Twitter by Modi.

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee ordered the probe last week amid allegations from the political opposition that the IPL was a front for money laundering and illegal betting.

The government has so far resisted calls from the opposition parties for a joint parliamentary probe into the alleged financial irregularities in the tournament.

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