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Road Safety World Series: The rise of the Gaikwads in the cricket world   

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Road Safety World Series: The rise of the Gaikwads in the cricket world   
The Board of Control for Cricket in India or BCCI doesn’t only control cricket in India but also its own destiny and beyond that. It has the power to transform international cricket the way it chooses to. The Indian Premier League is the biggest and most expensive T20 league in the world. It became the second-most expensive tournament in the world in terms of per-match revenue after the e-auction earlier this year.

The IPL has paved the way for several small cricket leagues around the world. One of the cricket leagues that was launched based on the franchise-based league model was the Road Safety World Series.

Legendary retired players from all over the world play in this series. This league with Indian roots was started with the aim of spreading awareness about road safety.

The league is supported by the Indian Ministry of Transport and Highways and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. But who is the brain behind this league? The answer is a little complicated.

While the Road Safety World Series has the blessings of the IPL, the great Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian National Congress, and so on, behind all of this is the Gaikwad family of Solapur, Maharashtra.

REMEMBER KOCHI TUSKERS?

In May 2021, Australian player Brad Hogg tweeted that the players playing in the IPL from the Kochi Tuskers team were yet to get 35% of the fixed pay. He appealed to the BCCI, saying that some action should be taken. The same was heard about the Road Safety World Series in 2022 and that its players were not paid what they were due.

There were murmurs that even Sachin Tendulkar did not receive his full payment. Along with this, there was also talk of Bangladeshi players being unhappy due to non-payment issues.

However, the league clarified that all the reports of non-payment were baseless and the players had no problem whatsoever.

Apart from delayed payment, what is common between the Kochi Tuskers and the Road Safety World Series? The Gaikwad brothers. Shailendra Gaikwad and Ravi Gaikwad are the protagonists in this story.

Shailendra and Ravi Gaikwad are sons of Kishan Rao Gaikwad who retired as Deputy Executive Engineer in the Irrigation Department in Solapur district of Maharashtra. His wife, Pushpa, was a housewife. Kishan Rao and Pushpa Gaikwad had three children – Shailendra, Ravindra, and Pratibha. Pratibha is a gynaecologist based in the United Kingdom.

People in Solapur know Shailendra Gaikwad as Pradeep. He completed his electrical engineering at Osmanabad and then tried his hand at many enterprises. Pushpa Automotives was one of them. This was the work of the dealership of Mahindra vehicles.

Shailendra also tried his hand at Kannada films but finally found his calling: Cricket management.

Shailendra Gaikwad and former IPL chairman Lalit Modi (File Photo)

SOLAPUR PREMIER LEAGUE

Shailendra Gaikwad started with Pushpa Cricket Academy in Solapur and became a team owner for the Solapur Cricket League.

The Solapur Premier League was started in 2009 and was organized by Praneeti Shinde, daughter of Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde, along with other local Congress leaders. Shailendra Gaikwad had cemented a spot in the Indian Premier League under the company name of Rendezvous Sports World, two years after he landed a team in the Solapur Premier League.

Ravindra Gaikwad did his BE degree in Mechanical Engineering from Walchand College. After this, he became the Regional Transport Officer. It was here that an incident took place, due to which the Government of India had to make changes to the Customs Act in February 2003.

THE GAIKWAD-TENDULKAR CONNECTION

It was Transport Officer Ravindra Gaikwad who waived the customs duty of the Ferrari gifted to Sachin Tendulkar by Fiat in July 2002 when he equaled Don Bradman’s batting record. Later, when this matter came to light, the government officially announced that they had given an exemption of duty above one crore to Tendulkar.

This controversy led to an amendment in the Customs Act in February 2003.

And then began Ravindra Gaikwad’s association with high-profile figures. It is believed that during this time he became friends with many such celebrities who were fond of imported cars.

Ravi Gaikwad (left) at a Road Safety World Series match (File Photo)

A big allegation was made against Ravindra when he was the deputy RTO in the Andheri division, as his name came up in the scam of giving up duty on expensive imported bikes.

Apart from him, the names of 17 more officers were included. 11 people were suspended out of the 18 and transfer letters were handed over to the remaining 7 people who played a small role in this scam. Ravindra Gaikwad was transferred to Beed in the Marathwada district. But he did not join duty and went on leave. After 12 years, in 2010, Ravindra Gaikwad was declared not guilty.

The status of these two brothers was such that Sachin Tendulkar and Dilip Vengsarkar were present at the wedding of their sister Pratibha in 2005 in Solapur. Even when Pushpa Automotives was inaugurated, it was at the hands of Sunil Gavaskar. Zaheer Khan and Nayan Mongia were also present on that occasion.

GAIKWAD-KOTALWAR FRIENDSHIP

In Osmanabad, Shailendra Gaikwad met Jayant Kotalwar during his college days. The two became friends and started planning a future together. In 1998, Jayant Kotalwar moved to America where he did computer engineering and founded a series of many start-ups. Jayant and Shailendra’s friendship continued, and the idea of a cricket franchise was always in Shailendra’s mind.

As soon as the IPL started, he shared his idea with Jayant, and work started on it. Jayant talked to many investors. While Jayant and Shailendra were friends, before them, their respective elder brothers Hemant Kotalwar and Ravindra Gaikwad had become friends. Hemant and Ravindra met in the 90s while preparing for civil services. Today Hemant Kotalwar is the Ambassador of India to the Czech Republic and Jayant Kotalwar used to be a 1.6% shareholder in Kochi Tuskers Kerala.

After an investigation, it can be said that Ravindra and Shailendra were the brains behind whatever mutual arrangement was made for the Kochi Tuskers Kerala team. Journalist Abhishek Dubey, who has written the book ‘The IPL Story – Cricket Glamor and Big Money’, wrote in his book that Ravindra was the founder of Rendezvous Sports World.

While Shailendra was the face of the Rendezvous Sports World, the family maintained that Ravi Gaikwad had nothing to do with the IPL franchise. But, when Rendezvous submitted their info to IPL for team bidding, the address mentioned in their documents was the official residence of Ravi Gaikwad (provided by the government).

Shailendra Gaikwad, who was a fan of Simi Garewal and inspired by her TV show ‘Rendezvous with Simi Garewal’, named the company Rendezvous Sports World. Rendezvous Sports World then roped in Sunanda Pushkar as a consultant. However, it was revealed later Sunanda had an 18% share in Rendezvous Sports World, which was 4.5% of the total of Kochi’s team. Sunanda Pushkar then said that she had been hired for fundraising, networking, event management, and brand building of Rendezvous Sports World.

Later, when the Kochi Tuskers Kerala case started taking a political angle, Satyajit Gaikwad, a former MP from Vadodara and a big name in Gujarat Congress, was called in to solve the farce. Notably, Satyajit Gaekwad had played Ranji Trophy for Gujarat and had big cricketers like Kiran More and Ravi Shastri in his friend circle.

Satyajit became the spokesperson for Kochi Tuskers Kerala. Satyajit Gaekwad had then clarified that the company offered Sunanda Pushkar a share in the team in lieu of her fees. Satyajit Gaekwad had accused Lalit Modi of asking Rendezvous Sports World to leave the Kochi team in exchange for $50 million. However, Lalit Modi dismissed the accusation, saying why would he ask anyone to leave the team when he was not among the bidders. Shailendra’s parents too owned a 19.85% stake in Kochi Tuskers Kerala, which was worth about Rs 292 crores. Jayant Kotalwar held a 1.6% share of Rendezvous which had a value of about Rs 5.8 crores.

FINANCE PROBLEMS

So, how did the Kotalwars and Gaikwad family, who came from humble beginnings, raise so much money to become the owners of the team worth 1,533 crores? Kochi Tuskers, the so-called Kerala team, had Vivek Venugopal as the lone investor from Kerala. He owned a 1% stake in the IPL franchise.

Anchor Earth, the company which makes electrical equipment and accessories, had 27% share in the KTK franchise. Film Waves (12% share), Parinee Developers (26% share), and Anand Shah States (8% share) were other partners in the IPL franchise. Apart from Venugopal, all these stakeholders were either based in Dubai or had businesses there. Apart from this, Sunanda Pushkar (18% share) had lived in Dubai for a long time. Shashi Tharoor, who joined the team at a later stage, had also been the chairman of Dubai’s AFRAS Ventures before contesting the Lok Sabha election in 2009. However, when Kochi Tuskers won the bid to join IPL, only Vivek Venugopal with a 1% stake was present alongside Lalit Modi.

At Rendezvous Sports World, Keshav T replaced Shailendra Gaikwad as the CEO because questions were being asked about the ownership of Kochi Tuskers. Keshav T was associated with Harshad Mehta’s company Rosy Diamond Group. Apart from this, Harshad Mehta was made the chairman of the Kochi franchise. Later Harshad Mehta’s name appeared in Swiss Leaks, Panama Papers, and Paradise Papers.

About the Gaikwad family, it was said that no member of this family had invested even a single rupee. A release issued by Dr Pratibha, sister of the Gaikwads, Rendezvous Sports World had received a stake in the Kochi team in lieu of management, administration, and marketing services.

According to the Gaikwad family, Shailendra and Ravindra were not on good terms and it was Ravindra had no links with the Kochi Tuskers team.

Notably, Sunil Gavaskar had to defend his association with the IPL’s beleaguered Kochi franchise against charges of conflict of interest. The batting legend was also part of the IPL Governing Council. Rendezvous Sports World says that Sunil Gavaskar had helped in the bidding process for the Kochi Tuskers team and other related works. However, Satyajit Gaikwad also that he had no stake in the franchise.

We tried to contact Ravi Gaikwad and get his comments on the Road Safety World Series and Kochi Tuskers Kerala but we could not get any reply from his side. We will update the story if we get a response.

— ENDS —



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