Nepal T20 in disarray as tournament organiser flees the country

Seven 3 Sport Jatin Ahluwalia has disappeared after player payment concerns, bringing the Nepal T20 to a standstill.

Nepal T20

Cricket in Nepal is on its knees with the latest foray into franchise T20 competitions, the Nepal T20, on the verge of cancellation due to unpaid salaries and organiser negligence.

As players initially refused to take the field on Tuesday morning after their wages weren’t paid, news filtered through that organisers Seven 3 Sports had fled to India, cutting off contact with the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) and the tournament’s domestic production team.

Seven 3 Sports founder Jatin Ahluwalia and others involved in the company had not been seen since the weekend, as officials and broadcasters at the tournament demanded their agreed salary.

Emerging Cricket now understands contact has now been made between broadcasters and Seven 3 Sports, with “no concerns over money” after half the agreed salary was subsequently paid, with the rest to be paid in the next two days. This includes player payments, due for transfer on Thursday evening.

As per the agreement with CAN and other stakeholders, Seven 3 Sports were to pay a fee between 33 to 39 million Nepali Rupees for the first season (US$250,000-290,000), with the first half to be paid before the tournament and the second half to be transferred after two-thirds of the competition had been played out. The company also had agreed to help in the maintenance of at least two stadiums, among and other developments.

After several delays to the start of the tournament, action on the field begun on December 24. 20 matches had been played out in the competition up until January 2 when Seven 3 Sports officials left without a trace, conveniently four matches short of the agreed two-third threshold.

CAN officials in a bid to reach the 24 matches needed to force Seven 3 Sports into the payment convinced the teams to resume action on the field, though the standstill meant Tuesday’s opening match between the Kathmandu Knights and the Biratnagar Super Kings began two hours late, and shortened to a nine-over affair.

Several overseas players sat out from Tuesday action, with the foreign playing group reportedly leading the revolt after many were not paid their first upfront fee, and penniless with just eight days until the competition’s conclusion. Pokhara Avengers in a stopgap measure were able to pay their players from their own pocket in the hope payments from those funding the tournament would eventually come through, though several foreign players, most notably Sikandar Raza, nominated for three ICC Awards for his play in 2022, have cut their losses and left.

On-field action meanwhile has not been without it’s controversy either, with fans and pockets of the media covering the event accusing players of spot-fixing.

Kathmandu Knights captain Gyanendra Malla fronted the press on Tuesday, declaring a player on his side was approached for a potential fix. Officials of the team reported the incident to relevant authorities, while one commentator at the event, Sachin Timalsena, went as far as pulling out of the tournament altogether.

In an explosive video posted on Facebook, Timalsena accused players of wrongdoing.

“After looking closely at Nepal T20 as a commentator, many suspicious activity was found. Now the organisers have disappeared.

“From today I will not have any involvement in this league as a broadcaster or commentator.”

Concerns surrounding Seven 3 Sports’ financial stability and experience in competition operations were flagged as early as November 2020 when the ten-year agreement from Seven 3 Sports to CAN was signed for a reported worth of around 420 million Nepali Rupees (roughly US$3.5 million dollars).

An Abuse of Authority Investigation Commission in the meantime has sent a letter to both the Nepali Ministry of Youth and Sports and the National Sports Council in regards to legal work permits were taken out for the foreign players at the competition.

Latest update on Wednesday morning: Seven 3 Sports’ subsequent contact with Nepal, and Gyanendra Malla’s statement on fixing allegations.

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