The Marylebone Cricket Club is all set to become one of the owners of an Indian Premier League franchise, to be sold next month at a minimum base price of US $225 million, media reports said on Thursday.
The Telegraph reported that the MCC, the guardians of the laws of cricket, are in negotiations to join a consortium bidding to buy one of two IPL franchises, likely to be based in Pune, Maharashtra.
The newspaper did not reveal the name of other partners of the consortium but said one of them is a major industrial Indian conglomerate with a turnover in excess of around US $298 million.
The report also said that Pune, where a terror strike killed more than a dozen people recently, could be the base for MCC out of the 12 cities in India nominated by the IPL as potential hosts of the new teams. Ahmedabad and Nagpur are other alternatives.
A new 55,000-capacity stadium is being constructed in Pune, making it attractive to bidders, according to the report.
"I can confirm there have been exploratory talks. We are obviously very mindful we have a major redevelopment of the ground coming up and our focus with respect to financial outlays is on that," Keith Bradshaw, the chief executive of the MCC, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
"This has not been approved by the committee and is still at a very early stage. The fast-paced nature of the game requires us to think innovatively and strategically.
"I am fully aware of our history and tradition and a decision such as this would be a paradigm shift. To not at least explore this opportunity would be negligent in my view," said Bradshaw, who with Anthony Wreford, an MCC trustee, were in India early this week for meetings the club's bid partner.
The move would be a major departure from tradition for the MCC but it could pave way for IPL matches at Lord's from 2011.
Any involvement in the bid would have to be approved by the MCC's committee and the decision will be one of the most important in its recent history.
The MCC has built a working relationship with IPL, which promotes the club's Spirit of Cricket initiative, and has shown an ability to break with tradition by moving its champions' county match to Abu Dhabi this year.
But the club will be concerned of its independence as guardians of the laws of the game could be compromised if it is seen to become too close to one cricket body.