‘Virat Kohli bags’ await Customs clearance amidst prevailing ambiguity

BCCI
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Virat Kohli had requested BCCI for Wheeliecase Cricket suitcases following India’s T20 tour to Florida and though they arrived last October, they are yet to be delivered, according to an Indian Express report. The consignment worth Rs 27 lakh is lying somewhere in a godown at Mumbai Harbour. The value or impact of the delay in Customs clearance might not be of much significance, but it does highlight the prevailing ambiguity and confusion that presently engulf the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

Last September, the Indian cricket board had placed an order with Wheeliecase Cricket, an Amsterdam-based company, for 134 of their hard-shell cricket suitcases that are being used by many teams around the world. Though the suitcases, which come in a set of three different sizes — to carry a player’s kit and personal belongings — arrived last October, they are yet to be delivered to the BCCI office.

Reason: With the office-bearer no longer in power and the SC-appointed Committee of Administrators still settling in their new role, there is no clarity on who will clear the payment. And why so many are being ordered as a touring contingent has no more than 25 individuals.

Ajay Shirke, who was the BCCI secretary when the order was placed, claimed he didn’t clear the payment, says the report. Shirke said his permission was sought only after the suitcases had been ordered. “I was told once the order was done, there was no purchase order and neither was approval taken…It was presented as fait accompli. So I stopped it,” said Shirke, who was removed as the BCCI office-bearer by the apex court over the delay in implementing the Lodha reforms.

When contacted via email, Ed van Nierop, who looks after the marketing and development of Wheeliecase, said the Indian players had wanted the cases and the BCCI had placed an order. The cases were shipped from Shanghai in September last year but initially couldn’t go past Customs as the necessary papers weren’t available.

According to the order, the BCCI was to pay US $250 per set of three with the overall bill, including logo printing and duty charges, totalling US $40,402, nearly Rs 27 lakh. But, the report says, the BCCI is yet to make any payment since Wheeliecase doesn’t charge an advance in such cases. “My company does not work with payment in advance. Through my previous role as team manager of Netherlands Cricket, I have been in touch with BCCI many times ever since the 2011 Cricket World Cup. The communication with BCCI is in place…Impressed with the professional way BCCI operates,” van Nierop wrote to Indian Express in his reply.

The five-month delay in unloading of the shipment has meant that the BCCI is already due to pay over Rs 8 lakh as demurrage charges. Van Nierop though is confident that the worst-case scenario of the BCCI failing to have the shipment released, resulting in the suitcases being auctioned, will not arise. “There won’t be any auction; the shipment is in the Mumbai harbour and currently paperwork is being taken care of,” he wrote. According to a BCCI official, approval is being sought from the COA and as soon as the paperwork is done, Kohli & Co will get the travel kit.

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