The polemics emanating from the IPL affront to Pakistani cricketers again brings to the fore the confused morass that is the Indian psyche; a jumble of misplaced morality and mawkish sentimentalism that revels in sadomasochistic self-doubt and translates into a gibberish that has no functional value. The net result is a floundering nation unsure of how to confront the inimical forces that confront it. In simple terms, a country that is unable to make strong decisions and stick by it.
Rajasthan Royals’ co-owner Shilpa Shetty’s unusually forthright response to the brouhaha that followed the non-selection of the Pakistani players was a breath of fresh air. She bluntly remarked: “People have to be a little more sensitive, a bit more mature. Let’s not be hypocrites and let’s not turn a blind eye to the already volatile situation. …you must look at it pragmatically and see that we have had these people who are constantly threatening.
“It’s not something we hold against the Pakistani players. We completely understand the situation but as franchise owners, are we willing to take that risk? If something happens to the Pakistani players, the onus lies on us and who is going to take responsibility for a situation like that? When we said ‘availability’, we wanted complete assurance that those players would be available in the country and that we were going to be able to provide security for them.”
At the outset the near unanimity of action of the IPL was praiseworthy. It was grounded in reality, made good business sense, accounted for security concerns and above all resonated with the national sentiment prevalent in the nation post-26/11.
Even before the first ball in the third edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was bowled, there have been already numerous ‘Doosras,’ ‘bouncers’ and ‘googlies’ with most of them coming from across the border.
For any cricketing fan, it was indeed disappointing that not a single player from the Pakistan T20 champions squad would be seen in action and all because none were bid for by the franchisees of the ten teams that would be vying for the honours.
All this despite the Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram himself expressing surprise over this development saying that as a cricket lover he had been disappointed by the exclusion of Pakistani players from IPL-3.
What Mr Chidambaram said clearly is a message to the IPL teams and specially to Mr Lalit Modi that the government was never in the picture as far as Pakistani players were concerned as the Minister strongly refuted reports that there had been a “hint or a nudge” from the government to keep the cricketers out
of the T20 tourney.
In fact, Mr Chidambaram was critical of the IPL organisers, saying, “I think it is a disservice to cricket that some of these players were not picked. I don’t know why the IPL teams acted in the manner in which they did. But to suggest that there was a hint or a nudge from the government is not true.”
It also conveys to Mr Modi that his haughtiness would not count for he had insisted that decisions were taken by franchisees according to their “cricketing strategy”. He said many other players besides the Pakistanis had not been sold.
With huge stakes in the tournament which saw top Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Shilpa Shetty and business magnates like Mukesh Ambani, Nusli Wadia, Vijay Mallya and Venkatram Reddy jump into the fray with teams sporting glamorous names like Kolkatta Knight Riders, King’s Eleven Punjab, Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai Indians, Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers of Bangalore, with an array of top notch cricketers, it indeed had all the ingredients of a crowd puller.
But, what was indeed surprising was that unlike the bidding that took place at the launch of the first IPL in 2008 with high bids for the players with the Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni going for the highest price put up by Chennai Superkings totaling US$1.5 million followed by none other than the controversial Australian Andrew Symonds for US$1.35 million put up by Deccan Chargers.
Surely there was indeed big money in the game and no wonder the hockey stars were up in revolt for the Premier Hockey League failed to get off the ground ending with a whimper whereas the IPL enters the third season though amidst controversy.
What was indeed surprising was that despite the heavy media publicity, the bidding ended within a few hours of its opening which surely too is a sign that people have gradually not keen on putting too much money. Not only that, the tournament itself which is to be played from March 12 to April 25 among ten teams appears to have got into the tangle of politics. Starting with none of the 11 Pakistani players being bid for by any of the ten teams while the Shiv Sena threatens to disrupt games in Mumbai if the Australians come in the wake of the attack on Indians Down Under.
In fact the statement by Pakistan Cricket Board chief Ijaz Butt blaming the IPL Commissioner Mr Modi i for ignoring Pakistani players for the third season of India’s Twenty20 league, has truly put the ball in the court of Mr Modi.
“This (decision to keep out Pakistani players) has nothing to do with Indo-Pak relations in cricket. This is between IPL and us. They have made a mistake, whether purposefully we don’t know. But I strongly feel it was a wrong decision on their part not to consider any of our boys,” Butt had said.
The PCB chief also questioned Modi’s “motive” behind the controversy. “You must ask Modi about the motive. Why he did this we don’t understand. I don’t think anybody in India or Pakistan understands this. I spoke to Modi in London during the T20 World Cup. He explained the reasons why the boys were not considered in South Africa (last year). I understood and then he assured me all would be playing in next IPL (IPL III).”
Meanwhile, there are reports that
a private security firm used by the Australian players has estimated the level of risk to cricketers in India to be the same now as it was in the month after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, when England returned for a two-Test series in Chennai and Mohali. The main point, however, is whether India’s security forces can implement the recommended security plan, and can be seen to do so.
Almost all of the overseas players with a contract for the third IPL have written to their franchise-owners asking for details of security arrangements. But these arrangements are in the remit of the IPL’s chief commissioner Modi who in his typical authoritarian style, has released no details, thus further raising the players’ fears.
Even as doubts persist over the participation of players from Australia and New Zealand, what was indeed surprising was that after the massive publicity for the third auction for the Indian Premier League (IPL), it was over in less than two hours and all in all was something of a lukewarm affair.
While 67 overseas players were up for sale, only 11 attracted successful bids. The biggest surprise of the day was that none of the 11 Pakistani players – the current T20 champions – received any bids and went unsold.
Sport journalist Ayaz Memon said that while he did not know if the Indian government had advised clubs not to buy Pakistani players, “the logic seemed [to be] that if the relations between the two governments were fickle then it may have influenced the decision of the franchisee”.
Seeking to downplay the issue, Bollywood star Preity Zinta, co-owner of Kings XI Punjab team, said every team had a “specific strategy” only to bid for certain players.
The co-owner of the Punjab Ness Wadia said that the availability or otherwise of players was “a major issue” and because of that there were no bids for some stars.
As the contracts will be for only one year, the upper limit a team could spend on a player was set at $750,000. When players like Shane Bond and Kieron Pollard had been accounted for, South African left-armer Wayne Parnell and West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach were both the subjects of competitive bidding.
“Credibility of IPL-3 may take a hit if Australian players are not allowed to play in Mumbai. However, due to security reasons,
team owners may decide not let their Australian cricketers play in the matches to be held in Mumbai, which maybe just one of the 14 matches,” said Indranil Blah, sports manger and former vice-president of Globosport.
Apart from the Australians, the nine English players contracted to IPL franchises and, with the exception of Andrew Flintoff who is injured, will be meeting advisers from the Professional Cricketers Association over the next fortnight before deciding whether it is safe to go to India.
The other eight players are Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Owais Shah, Ravi Bopara, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Graham Napier, who were all contracted to play in the second IPL, along with Middlesex’s Eoin Morgan, the only England player to be bought in this year’s auction, and Hampshire’s Michael Lumb, who was signed privately by Rajasthan Royals.
However, the view is that there is less possibility of England’s IPL players pulling out of the tournament on security grounds than the Australians because, more than any other non-Asian Test-playing nation, England have frequently been pressurised into touring hot spots and have emerged unscathed. Players who pull out on security grounds would not be entitled to any payment from their franchises.
Whatever maybe the final outcome when the tournament gets underway, but one thing is fairly clear as was said by leading Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid that “Success in T20 may not automatically translate into success in the four-day Ranji or Tests”
“T20 is unique and lot of young Indian players are excelling in this format. Whether they can take this confidence to the next level is debatable. It’s not going to be easy and the skills with which you achieve success in T20 may not help you give you success in Ranji and Test,” he said.
“Cricket cannot be marketed. Crowd in the grounds has to believe what they are seeing is real and not a reality show. Fast paced exciting colourful cricket is a grand idea but in India cricket fans will take time to adjust to the concept. Cricket crazy fans in the country associate themselves with the Indian cricket team and they want to watch Indian team playing,” said former Indian Cricketer Ajay Jadeja.
In less than decade since first Twenty20 cricket was formally introduced in 2003 when the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) launched the Twenty20 Cup and was marketed with the slogan “I don’t like cricket, I love it”, taken from the 10cc song “Dreadlock Holiday,” the game’s popularity has indeed grown in leaps and bounds.
The idea to start this league appears to have been originated from the English Premier League football tournament, which has a worldwide following. In the case of cricket though crowds did turn up for the first edition of the IPL with its colourful dance troupes, it seemed more like a tamasha for a cricket connossieur. The charm of the IPL matches came down to some extent in second edition last year. Now the third edition of IPL is already mired in the controversy over not bidding of any of 11 Pakistani players. What is to be seen whether the IPL-3 would be able to touch the same charisma and fan-following as the IPL-1 and to some extent IPL-2. Furthermore, this incident is threatening to jeopardise the entire sporting ties between India and Pakistan, which is not good for both the countries.
By Sri Krishna
Although the IPL refuted the charge of a premeditated conspiracy, there was no denying the undercurrent of patriotic fervour. It was strong decision but subtle and hurt the enemy where it hurt most. And for once India revealed a depth to its character, an ability to stand up for itself, a new-found confidence that clearly said: “Don’t toy with us.” But alas the satisfaction was short lived!
Soon notes of dissent surfaced with our honorable Home Minister and a Bollywood icon mouthing a namby-pamby view that was in line with India’s perpetual guilt complex.
There was no need to be apologetic about the IPL stance. Yet there was Shahrukh Khan decrying the decision not with a logical counterpoint but by singing paeans to Pakistan and invoking personal ties. He remorsefully exclaimed: “It (Pakistan) is a great neighbour to have. We are great neighbours. They are good neighbours. Let us love each other.
A DANGEROUS GAME
Once seen as a gentleman’s sport, cricket today has become a serious security concern, thanks to growing terrorist attacks in South Asia, Sudeshna Sarkar writes
When the game of cricket was invented in the 16th century, it was regarded as a gentleman’s sport and a metaphor for chivalrous behavior. But when megabuck multinational companies began invading the pitch with sponsorship offers, the spirit of commercialisation overtook the spirit of gallantry, and the seedy side of the game was exposed most notably when South African cricket icon Hansie Cronje was banned for life from playing in 2000 after admitting he was involved in match fixing.
Now there is an even darker factor inextricably bound with the game: terrorism.
The latest manifestation of the cricket-terrorism link occurred this month, ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches that kick off in India in March. It has put South Asian neighbors—particularly cricket and nuclear arms rivals India and Pakistan—at loggerheads once again, stoking the tension that had flared up after terror attacks in India’s commerce capital Mumbai in November 2008 in which over 170 people were killed.
The IPL, a three-year-old fixture that brings together cricketers from all over the world, begins with an ‘auction’ in which team owners bid for players. At the auction on 19 January, to the shock of the cricket community, none of the teams made an offer for the 11 Pakistani cricketers available, though the line-up included ace players like Shahid Afridi, an all-rounder who had played in the first edition of the tournament.
The exclusion is linked to the Mumbai attacks, which India says were blueprinted in Pakistan with the support of Islamabad’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Two earlier terror attacks targeting the same city in 1993 and 2003 are also believed to have links to Pakistan. Consequently, there was a strong possibility that the two ultra-nationalist parties that dominate Mumbai—the Shiv Sena of powerful trade union leader Bal Thackeray and the Maharshtra Navnirman Samiti of his nephew Raj Thackeray – would try to disrupt the matches there. The fear of violence and even attacks on Pakistani players led to the bidders passing them over.
But the maneuver to pre-empt domestic violence has triggered a fresh diplomatic standoff between the two countries.
Pakistan Sports Minister Ijaz Jakhrani flayed the incident according to local media reports: “The way India behaved with us is highly condemnable. We will give a befitting reply. When there is a question of Pakistan’s pride, we all are united.”
The issue was also taken up by Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who said the exclusion was an insult to the Pakistani players and indicated that India was not serious about the peace process. “India or any other country that does not give respect to Pakistan will be treated the same way by us,” Malik told Pakistani television stations. “If there is a desire to improve Indo-Pakistan friendship, respect should be given to Pakistani sportspersons.”
While angry crowds burnt effigies of IPL chief Lalit Modi in Pakistan, its National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza termed the exclusion a conspiracy and announced that, in protest, Islamabad would not send a parliamentary delegation to India. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan
Muslim League (Nawaz) party has also announced a boycott of official visits to New Delhi and demanded a ban on Indian films in Pakistan.
The diplomatic offensive forced India’s External Affairs Ministry to issue a rejoinder, distancing the government from the IPL, which is a private organisation.
“Blaming the government for the absence of Pakistani players from the next edition of IPL is unfortunate,” the statement said. “The participation or absence of Pakistani cricketers in a commercial event of the nature of IPL is, thus, a matter not within the purview of the government. Pakistan should introspect on the reasons which have put a strain on relations between India and Pakistan, and have adversely impacted on peace, stability and prosperity in the region.”
The message was reinforced by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, who told the Indian media, “[The] government has nothing to do with IPL, on selection of players and various exercises that are connected with it. So, Pakistan will have to draw a line between where the government of India is connected and where government of India is an actor.” Ironically, while their diplomatic ties worsen, cricket in both India and Pakistan has been the victim of terrorism.
In 2009, the IPL had to be shifted from India to South Africa after the Mumbai siege caused security concerns, heightened by fears of domestic violence since India was holding elections around the same time. Islamabad, for its part, suffered when in 2009, for the first time in the history of cricket, gunmen attacked a visiting team in Lahore, killing eight people.
On 3 March 2009, about a dozen terrorists, wearing body armor and armed with rifles and rocket launchers, attacked a bus carrying Sri Lankan cricketers and officials near the Gaddafi Sports Stadium in Lahore, triggering international condemnation. The Lankan team was immediately recalled home, while Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa cut short his state visit abroad to return to Colombo. Subsequently, Pakistan lost the right to co-host the World Cup series in 2011 and the ICC Champions Trophy tournament, the second-most important cricketing event after the World Cup, was shifted to South Africa from Pakistan.
In addition, New Zealand called off its Pakistan tour scheduled for the end of 2009, reviving the dark memories of 2002 when it had done the same thing after a bomb attack in Karachi killed 13 people.
It was Justin Vaughan, New Zealand Cricket’s chief executive, who voiced the fears of the cricket community that it had now become a specific target of terrorist attacks.
“It’s very frightening that for the first time a cricket team is what appears to be the specific target of terrorist action,” Vaughan said according to media reports. “That’s never happened before—previously all the incidents have been about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a very different proposition and… a very frightening one for world cricket.”
Let me be honest. My family is from Pakistan, my father was born there and his family is from there.”
Two glaring inconsistencies stand out in this remark. One, if Pakistan is really a great neighbour then I am Albert Einstein. Without mincing words let me say that Pakistan is a deadbeat nation that is nothing more than a drag on India’s progress. The less we have to do with this nation the better.
The second objection concerns the merging of private and public domains. I have no issue with Shahrukh Khan’s personal empathy for Pakistan borne out of familial affiliations even if it cuts across hostile boundaries. But can a national icon cite family ties to influence the professional decisions of an India-based organisation or to sway public opinion?
The Home Minister’s response too was unnecessarily defensive with an uncalled for dose of self-reproach. He dubbed the non-inclusion of Pakistani cricketers a “disservice to cricket” and contended that “these players were coming as individuals, it was not a Pakistan team”.
Another misperception that stems from a lack of pragmatic thinking: A perusal of the following excerpt (“It’s Not Cricket” by Saba Naqvi, Outlook, January 25) reveals that these Pakistani players are not isolated individuals but members of a larger hate-India club that is Pakistan. “Consider this conversation that took place in a TV show titled ‘A morning with Farah’ on Atv, a Pakistan channel. Sohail Tanvir, who helped the Rajasthan Royals win and got the highest number of wickets in the first IPL is being interviewed by another journalist while the glamorous hostess, Farah, looks on. Consider Tanvir’s remark: ‘Hinduon ki zahaniyat hi aisi hai (the Hindu nature is like that only)’ the implication being that the Hindus have deliberately deceived and humiliated Pakistanis. The journalist responds with a remark about Indians being baniyas and says: ‘Bagal me chhuri, muh me Ram Ram’ (they are ready to plunge a knife behind your back though they will keep saying Ram Ram). The gentleman with this shocking view of Indians in general and Hindus in particular then goes on about how India is tricking Pakistan out of hosting the World Cup next year.”
This vitriolic outpouring is shocking but what makes it even more despicable is the prime time prominence given to such Hindu/Indophobic venom. In comparison, it is hard to find such rabid talk from even the far right of the India’s political spectrum and certainly not on national television. It is this stark difference between the two nations that needs to sink into the fuzzy minds of our peaceniks.
We, in India are quick to vilify those who propose a hard-line approach to Pakistan that includes severing cricket ties by branding them as radical and uncivilised. We cannot mix cricket with politics is the oft-quoted mantra. But what is so sacred about this dichotomy? Is it a directive derived from logic or common sense or an abstract feel-good notion with no utility value? And has continued cricketing ties mitigated Pakistan’s terror shenanigans?
I would like to look at in another way. This is not about cricket and politics but cricket and humanity. I am passionate about cricket and love the game. But that is the point. Cricket is merely a game and must take second place to humane concepts. Is it not barbaric that we choose to continue playing cricket with a people whose compatriots routinely massacre our innocent civilians? I find it uncouth when we walk over the dead bodies of the carnage of 26/11 and extend a ‘loving’ hand to Pakistan and Pakistanis? This suggests that we care little for the lives of our citizens and more for our image and entertainment. This train of terror cannot go on. We must draw the line somewhere and it is here and now even if it means no cricket. (Blogkut)
By Vivek Gumaste