Although a formal announcement of the sponsorship deal would be made tomorrow, Sahara by virtue of its highest bid would retain the sponsorship that enables the group to display its logo on the chest and the leading arm of the players' shirts during their outings in India and abroad.
Idea cellular, a leading mobile player, was the second highest bidder with a price offering of Rs. 286 crore, followed by Rs. 257 crore bid of Reliance Infocom and Rs 256 crore by Indian Oil Corporation.
Auto major Hero Honda, a qualified bidder, withdrew at the last minute.
Abhijit Sarkar, a spokesperson of Sahara India, which spent an estimated Rs. 85 crore over the last four years on team sponsorship, justified the aggressive bid by the group, saying, "Sahara today is synonymous with Indian Cricket. We got the value of our money during the deal that is coming to an end now."
The four-year contract covers the period from January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2009.
The deal, when approved, would be well more than four times the previous contract.
Also, the contract for logo display on the players' non-leading arm and the kits has been separated from the main sponsorship this time around and would be finalised later thismonth.
"Sahara today is the only corporate major that has patronised Indian sports in the real sense, be it cricket, womens' cricket or Indian hockey," Sarkar said when asked about the reasons for the high bidding against an estimated reserve price of Rs 138 crore (calculated on the basis of number of ODIs and Test matches during the contract period.)
The bids were opened by the Cricket Board (BCCI) Marketing Committee officials including Secretary Niranjan Shah, Vice Presidents Lalit Modi and Shashank Manohar, Treasurer N Srinivasan and I S Bindra.
Two observers from Cricket Australia were also present to ensure transparency, prompting one of the bidder to say "the process was totally open and transparent."
The bidding process was initiated on December 12 and 11 corporates gave their Expression of Interest. Subsequently, six qualified, out of which five tendered their bids.
Today, at the Oberoi hotel here, the bidders were asked to confirm their amounts, which was opened and displayed.
Air Sahara, a separate venture of the Sahara Group, emerged as the highest bidder, but it was understood to have the backing of the latter.
Asked about the soundness of the decision to enter into a deal with Air Sahara, Modi said, "we are very comfortable with the decision."
"Although it is Air Sahara, it is with the backing of the Sahara group. We have all the bank guarantees."
The expected number of matches -- beginning with India's tour of Pakistan from early January -- during the next four years is 44 Tests and 110 One-dayers.