IPL and its women: A tale of sex, storms and scandals

IPL has been controversy's favourite child since its inception. The fifth edition of the tournament is no different.

The cash-rich T20 event may be a bastion of men, but many of its scandals have women playing key roles.

Here are some of the scandals involving women that have rocked IPL through its 5-year lifespan.

Sunanda Pushkar and Shashi Tharoor
Sunanda Pushkar and Shashi Tharoor

Sunanda was at the centre of a saga that ended with the ouster of two men from their positions of power.

In 2010, then IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi had claimed that Shashi Tharoor, a Cabinet Minister at the time, had gifted Sunanda a stake in Rendezvous Sports World, a co-owner of the Kochi franchise. There were allegations that Pushkar's stake was a proxy for Tharoor.

Modi further alleged that Tharoor had instructed him not to reveal identities of the stakeholders of Kochi IPL franchisee. Tharoor denied these allegations. The two kept going back and forth with allegations. The war of words was the perfect opportunity for Modi and Tharoor's detractors to dislodge them from their seats. Tharoor had to resign as Minister of State for External Affairs and Lalit Modi was stripped of all his posts in Indian cricket and suspended by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

Being the daughter of the aviation minister has its perks. Poorna Patel, daughter of then Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and IPL’s hospitality manager, was accused of pulling out a scheduled Air India flight in order to use it as a charter flight for her and some IPL players. Not once, but thrice.

On April 10, 2010, a Chandigarh-Delhi-Mumbai flight reportedly made a landing at Jaipur to drop the players and staffers of the Mumbai Indians team, reportedly as per Poorna Patel's instructions.

Then a day later, a Delhi-Coimbatore Air India flight was allegedly deployed as a chartered flight to fly Poorna and some IPL players from Chandigarh to Chennai.

In a violation of DGCA guidelines, a scheduled Delhi-Mumbai Air India flight was then reported to have been diverted to Jaipur to pick up 35 players and other members of the Mumbai Indians team on April 12.

Poorna had denied all allegations. 


Poorna Patel, who is in-charge of IPL's marketing services and hospitality, was also involved in a controversy in 2010 surrounding the bidding process for the Kochi franchise.

There was uproar after it emerged that Poorna had reportedly forwarded IPL CEO Sundar Raman’s e-mail containing details of IPL bid for new franchises to her father’s personal secretary, Champa Bhardwaj, who in turn is believed to have forwarded them to Praful Patel’s then cabinet colleague Shashi Tharoor. Tharoor would thus have known the possible quotes before the IPL bids for two new franchises – Pune and Kochi – were even started.

NCP party spokesman DP Tripathi had at the time defended both Poorna and her father. Tripathi had said, “It is not a classified or confidential matter. It was a business plan. Poona sent IPL CEO's e-mail to Patel's secretary. There is nothing. Record is straight. E-mail coming here and going there.... it was sent from the personal office (of the minister).” 

Laila Mahmood

In April 2010, the income tax (IT) department was probing the Indian Premier League's (IPL) financial transactions, covering all the franchises amidst allegations of murky deals. At that time, a woman was caught on CCTV exiting then IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi's office in Mumbai with what appeared to be a laptop and some documents. The IT officials were concerned it was some incriminating evidence being destroyed.

It later came to light that the girl was the step-daughter of business tycoon Vijay Mallya, owner of the Royal Challenger Bangalore IPL team. Mallya admitted that his step-daughter Laila Mahmood was the ‘mystery woman’ who exited Modi's office in Mumbai just before the Income Tax officials visited it for a probe.

They rubbished all allegations of wrong-doing.  

Who is Gabriella Pasqualotto? The name may not mean much to most Indians, but it was everybody’s lips during the 2011 IPL. Gabriella was a South African cheerleader hired by Mumbai Indians, who was fired for secretly blogging about players at post-match parties. She had reportedly written about the “flirtatious” and “inappropriate” behaviour by the cricketers. Pasqualotto had described MS Dhoni as “polite” and Sachin Tendulkar as “rarely present.”

One of her posts had read: “We are practically like walking porn. These cricketers are the most loose and mischievous I have come across. I have a long while still here, so I must remember my tip list: beware of the cricketers!” 

Preity Zinta, Shilpa Shetty
(From Left): Preity Zinta, Lalit Modi and Shilpa Shetty.

The BCCI had, in 2010, expelled two IPL franchises – Shilpa Shetty-owned Rajasthan Royals and Preity Zinta’s Kings XI Punjab – from the league for allegedly violating the franchisee agreement. But both the franchisees moved court against the BCCI’s decision and won.

Preity Zinta

In the fifth edition of IPL, the Kings XI Punjab co-owner allegedly tangled with umpires over the controversial dismissal of her team’s batsman Shaun Marsh. The incident took place at the PCA Stadium in Mohali after Marsh was dismissed in a controversial manner.

He edged a Brett Lee delivery to KKR wicketkeeper Manvinder Bisla, who claimed a clean catch, even though TV replays suggested otherwise. Kings XI captain Adam Gilchrist’s had to apparently calm the actress down after she had rushed onto the ground during the strategic time-out and reportedly clashed with the match officials. 

Sofia Hayat
Sofia Hayat

Two cricketers from the Pune Warriors team -- Rahul Sharma and Wayne Parnell -- were among the 96 people detained during a police raid on a rave party at a suburban Mumbai hotel on May 20, 2012. Both cricketers have claimed innocence saying that they didn’t drink or use drugs and were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The two women involved in the scandal are -- Namrata Kumar -- a public relations representative, who had reportedly asked model-actress Sofia Hayat to bring Parnell and some other cricketers to the event.

Also, of the 19 foreign nationals detained at the party, six were IPL cheergirls.  

Zohal Hameed, Sahil Peerzada
Zohal Hameed with her fiance Sahil Peerzada.

Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Australian cricketer Luke Pomersbach was arrested after American national Zohal Hameed alleged he molested her and hit her fiancé Sahil when he objected to the cricketer's behaviour at a New Delhi hotel on May 17, 2012.

Subsequently, RCB director Siddhartha Mallya was served a defamation notice after he tweets questioned her character.

Zohal has since withdrawn the molestation case after both the parties reached an out-of-court settlement. She also dropped all legal proceedings against Mallya Jr 

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