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Star Sports upset Virat Kohli not playing Asia Cup. None of your business, says BCCI

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Star has written to Asian Cricket Council that Virat Kohli not playing will hurt its ability to monetise and generate revenues from the tournament.

Dubai: There is trouble brewing between Indian cricket board and Star, the host broadcaster of the Asia Cup.

A sharp exchange of emails between Rahul Johri, the BCCI chief executive, Thushith Perera of the Asian Cricket Council, and Sunil Manoharan, a senior executive at Star, accessed by ThePrint, lays bare some serious issues of disagreement over the selection of the Indian squad for the tournament that has just begun in the United Arab Emirates.

Star first wrote to Perera on 6 September, reminding him that it was imperative that teams participating in the Asia Cup field their best players.

Also read: Whatever he does, Virat Kohli won’t be India’s greatest in England. It’ll still be Dravid

“It has come to our knowledge (through a media advisory dated September 1, 2018 issued by the Board of Control for Cricket in India) that Virat Kohli will not form a part of the Indian national cricket team for the upcoming Unimoni Asia Cup 2018 (the “Asia Cup”) to be held in the United Arab Emirates between September 15-28, 2018,” wrote Manoharan.

“We would like to bring to your notice that our media rights agreement dated June 29, 2017 (the “MRA”) with the Asian Cricket Council (the “ACC”) requires that the ACC ensures that the best available teams from each of the participating nations including India should form a part of the Asia Cup. It is apparent from the aforesaid media advisory issued by the BCCI as well statements made to the media by the chairman of the senior selection committee (MSK Prasad) that Virat Kohli has been rested by the selection committee despite him being available to participate in the tournament.”

Manoharan adds: “Virat Kohli has been the most prolific run scorer in world cricket in the recent past. His presence in the Indian team and his aggressive captaincy has a dramatic impact on the outcome of each event. In our view, this announcement about the absence of one of the world’s best batsmen from this edition of the Asia Cup, only 15 days before the commencement of the Asia Cup, is a serious dent to us (the event broadcaster) and will severely impact our ability to monetize and generate revenues from the tournament.”

Perera then emailed the relevant officials at BCCI on 7 September, to which Johri replied on 16 September.

“Kindly note that the team selected by BCCI selection Committee (an expert body comprising of former cricketers) to participate in the Asia Cup as announced on 1 September 2018 is the best available team,” wrote Johri.

“Please also take note that selection of the best available team for participation in a tournament is the sole prerogative of the selection committee of BCCI. It is not open for Asian Cricket Council or its broadcaster to insist on selection of any particular player and/or to question the expert opinion of the Selection Committee as to which is the best available team for a particular tournament.”

In closing, Johri wrote: “Needless to add, this email is being issued without prejudice to BCCI’s rights and contentions in law, all of which are expressly reserved.”

While BCCI is perfectly entitled to select who it pleases to participate in the Asia Cup, it is also undeniable that Kohli’s absence will put a serious dent in the marketability of the tournament and the ability of Star to monetise matches.

Star is one of the most critical partners of the BCCI, having acquired the rights for India’s home matches and the Indian Premier League. In total, Star will pay BCCI Rs 6,138 crore (over five years) for cricket played in India, and Rs 16,347 crore (also over five years).

MSK Prasad, chairman of the selection committee had confirmed that Kohli had been rested for the Asia Cup and subsequently added that more players would be rested during the home series against West Indies.

Also read: It’s bizarre that Virat Kohli thinks constant chopping, changing team isn’t bizarre

“Considering the workload, we have given him (Kohli) rest,” Prasad had said. “He has been playing continuously for quite some time. He’s on the road from the IPL. So that is why looking at the workload we have given him rest.”

Anand Vasu is a freelance journalist. He tweets @anandvasu

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