Hyderabad, Feb.22 : Franchise owners furiously chased Andrew Symonds during the Indian Premier League auction in the belief that Australia would cancel their tour of Pakistan, but they denied having any knowledge of his controversial statements suggesting he would pull out of the trip.
The Hyderabad franchise's co-owner N. Krishnan said Symonds was the team's main target and he believed there was a strong chance the Pakistan tour would be called off, despite Cricket Australia (CA) preparing to send a pre-tour security team to assess risks.
"We never knew about his comments, but of course we always had a very strong suspicion that the tour would not go ahead, that the chances of this tour not taking place are quite high," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Krishnan, the Chief Financial Officer of the Deccan Chronicle, the newspaper company that purchased the Hyderabad IPL team for 116.7 million dollars, as saying.
Should the tour proceed, however, Australians could play in up to six IPL matches in the small window before they travel to the West Indies in May, with Cricket Australia saying it would not object as long as coach Tim Nielsen did not require the squad to do preparatory training.
Symonds was flabbergasted yesterday after becoming the second-richest Twenty20 cricketer in the world with a price tag of 1.47 million dollars a season over three years, and speculation was rife that the eight franchises at the auction had prior knowledge that he would be free to play every game of the inaugural league.
Symonds appeared on Australian television hours before the auction saying he would pull out if the Pakistan tour went ahead because of safety concerns.
The IPL's co-founder, Inderjit Singh Bindra, told the Herald: "I have a suspicion the corporates had more knowledge then we did. I could not believe how much was bid for Symonds, the bidding was incredible, very fast. I am sure the owners knew he might be available because I can't believe he is two-and-a-half times the value of Ricky Ponting, who the owners believed would not be available this year."
Symonds's manager Matt Fearon said he was not in contact with franchise owners before the auction started.
The revised tour to Pakistan is scheduled between March 29 and April 27, while Australia's first match in the West Indies is slated for May 16.
Allowing for two days travel and rest either side of the tours, players could appear in five or six IPL games if Nielsen waves away any training camps for the West Indies.
For Symonds, five matches means roughly 550,000 dollars in payments.
Krishnan said Symonds's value was in his all-round ability.
"We needed to have multi-tasking people. The way we selected the team, we needed winning combinations and very strong players. Once we have success on the field, everything else will come."
Symonds was at a loss to explain how he became such a sought-after commodity.
CA later confirmed that Symonds would not be eligible to play in the IPL during the Pakistan tour if it was to go ahead.
Australian skipper Ricky Ponting also reminded Symonds that such a move would breach his national contract.