Cricket snub ignites India-Pakistan row
A perceived snub to Pakistani players by the glitzy Indian Premier
League has sparked a diplomatic spat between the great rivals, for whom
cricket is more than just a game.
No Pakistani player was bought by the eight Indian clubs during an
auction on Tuesday for the third edition of the league despite the
Pakistan team being the reigning world champions in the Twenty20 format
of the tournament.
The omission has triggered widespread protests in Pakistan with
effigies of IPL chief Lalit Modi being burnt on the streets of Lahore
amid condemnation from politicians and threats of boycotts from other
Pakistani sports teams.
Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna was drawn into the maelstrom
Thursday, denying that his government was behind the move following
suggestions from IPL franchises that Pakistani players may have been
refused Indian visas.
“The government has nothing to do with IPL, on selection of players
and various exercises that are connected with it,” he said.
In Pakistan, retaliatory steps saw a parliamentary delegation cancel
their trip to India and a scheduled visit by the Pakistani kabaddi
(traditional tag wrestling) team was called off.
“I agree this is a private event, but Pakistani players being
excluded without any reason and without looking at the background is
unfair,” the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Ijaz Butt, told AFP.
Foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit told the newspaper Dawn “it is
clear from what we heard from the Indian High Commission that the
decision to not include Pakistani players was influenced by variables
extraneous to sports.”
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence in
1947 and tension spiked in 2008 when militants killed 166 people in an
attack on Mumbai. New Delhi pointed the finger at a Pakistan-based
India cancelled a scheduled cricket tour of Pakistan after the Mumbai
attacks, breaking a sequence of bilateral Test series held on each
other’s soil every year from 2004 to 2007.
In a further setback, the International Cricket Council withdrew
Pakistan’s right to host matches in next year’s Cricket World Cup,
following the Lahore terrorist attack in March on the visiting Sri
Lankan cricket team.
Pakistan’s matches were instead shared among co-hosts India, Sri
Lanka and Bangladesh.
The third season of the lucrative IPL, which features the world’s top
players in eight teams owned by rich businessmen and Bollywood stars,
will be held in March and April this year.
One franchise official, who preferred to remain unnamed, told AFP
that he was not surprised that the Pakistanis were excluded.
“We were not sure if they would get visas and we did not want players
who won’t be available,” he said. “Besides, there is also the security
issue. No one was willing to take a chance.” Indian cricket board
secretary N. Srinivasan, who owns the Chennai Super Kings team in the
IPL, also said the franchisees should not be blamed.
“They (the franchisees) have the right to pick the players they want.
After all, it is their money,” Srinivasan told the Hindu newspaper on
“How can you say if you do not buy a player from a particular country
it is an insult to that nation?
“How much a team is prepared to spend on and on whom is the sole
prerogative of the franchisees.” Srinivasan stressed that even players
like West Indian batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan, Australian wicket-keeper Brad
Haddin and England spinner Graeme Swann had been ignored at the auction.
Such arguments are unlikely to placate critics across the border.
“I think this is a lesson to all the Pakistani players to think about
their country only and don’t play only for the lust of money in the IPL,”
Basit Ali, former Pakistan player, told AFP.
Leading sports personalities had also called on Pakistan to boycott
next month’s field hockey World Cup in New Delhi where the arch-rivals
are due to clash in the opening match on February 28.
But Pakistan sports minister Ijaz Jakhrani said on Friday the
national team will travel to New Delhi to take part in the tournament.
“The World Cup is an international event — not an Indian one, so our
team will participate in it,” Jakhrani told reporters in Islamabad.
NEW DELHI, Sunday, AFP