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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2705

Under Pak Terror Shadow Offshore Cricket League

By Atulcowshish - Syndicate Features

If, as the name suggests, it is Indian Premier League, then the news that the next round of the T20 cricket tournament will be played not in India but South Africa cannot be well received by the home crowd. No offence meant for South Africa, which agreed at very short notice to take on the burden of organising the world’s biggest cricketing extravaganza after it was found impossible to do so in India.

Nobody expected Cricket South Africa to be altruistic in accepting the request from IPL for staging the tournament. But a lot of people in this country do feel that the IPL is driven by selfish, money-grabbing opportunities, which are served by staging lavish cricketing shows.

Just how callous is this organisation called the IPL should be clear from the unashamed admission of its chief executive that it hardly matters where the tournament is played because the majority of cricket fans watch the matches on television. His line of argument opens up many possibilities, none of which would have required government support for providing security.

And it also raises a fundamental question.

In the final analysis, all the money that is paid to the IPL players comes from Indians, who forgive the profligate payments to the players because they expect to see their cricketing idols playing in front of them and in this country. Now they will be watching players only on TV screens. Besides, only the rich Indian fans who can afford to spend a month in South Africa will be able to see the players’ pyrotechnics in person.

The disdain for the Indian fans displayed by the IPL bosses could be seen as saying that it will matter little if all the IPL matches are played in stadiums where only officials and media are allowed in. The audio-visual and print media can take the matches to the spectator in their homes. It is not important that the matches are played in India before ‘home’ audiences.

If it was all about matches in front of TV cameras, no government, state or central, would have turned down the request for providing security because only a small number of personnel would have been required for matches staged in ‘sealed’ stadiums which are closed to the general public.

Another way of looking at it is that since these ‘tamasha’ matches are completed in about four hours time, it would have been possible to stage two, maybe three, matches in a day at one venue in the summer months in India when day light is available right through late afternoon. This would have made it possible for the IPL to avoid a clash between any match and polling at the venue where they were scheduled.

IPL would have certainly rejected either of these alternatives. But it rushed to condemn the government for its inability to spare enough security personnel for the cricket matches in a display of another deplorable act. The government’s ‘behaviour’ that it criticised suggests that the IPL bosses, many of whom politicians, think that cricket is more important than elections in India. The accusation against the government is clearly connected to the coming Lok Sabha polls where one of the hot topics is likely to be government’s alleged inability to fight terrorism.

The IPL bosses perhaps do understand but don’t want to accept in public that in the present circumstances no government in power would have agreed to relax security for the polls in favour of cricket matches. The IPL bosses would have to be utterly stupid not to have anticipated that their cricket tournament might clash with the polls. The country did expect polls for the 15th Lok Sabha this summer. It had become more or less certain by the end of last summer that the polls would be conducted in the months of April and May (2009). The new Lok Sabha has to be constituted latest by June 2009.

In the aftermath of the March 3, 2009 attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in the Pakistani city of Lahore it had become absolutely necessary in India also that any cricket match in the country that had international players must be provided full security. When cricket players became targets of terrorist attacks on its soil Pakistan had to suffer the ignominy of being taken off the cricketing map.

It is not too farfetched to guess that the attackers of the Sri Lankan cricketers could well be planning a similar attack in other parts of the sub-continent, especially India. Pakistan is shaken by its cricketing isolation and it thinks that the only immediate consolation for it will come if India was similarly isolated. After all, Pakistan controls the levers of terrorists who operate in India. The Pakistani handlers of terrorists would not miss an opportunity that contributes to India also being considered an ‘unsafe’ venue for big cricket matches, watched by millions.

At this point no government in India can take on the threat from the terrorists lightly nor can it compromise on the security requirements for election duties. It is not an admission of failure to extend ‘foolproof’ security for the IPL matches. Much before the Lahore attacks players from a number of countries were unwilling to tour Pakistan because of security concerns. Many Pakistan tours have been called off in the past. It is a fact that many foreign players also now fear that India could be equally unsafe for them.

The threat from terrorists to cricketers in India may or may not be real, but an important difference between India and Pakistan is that despite all the fundamental lunatics in this country terrorism is not the full time occupation of a sizeable section of the society here as it apparently is across the border.

The Taliban in Pakistan have been installed in power with government’s help in an area less than a couple of hundred kilometres from Islamabad. In many other parts of Pakistan there is open support for militant radicals who are ready to take over the rest of the country—and they dislike cricket for its association with the infidels.

Even the severest critics of the ‘Indian Taliban’ would not accuse them of hating the game of cricket. A particular ‘tiger’ among this Indian tribe actually loves the game, though he may not like India to have cricketing ties with a particular neighbour.

- Asian Tribune -

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