There is never a dull moment in the cricket-cinema-commerce circus called Indian Premier League. If season 2 was held in faraway South Africa because of “security fears”, the third edition has run into rough weather with not one single player from Pakistan being “bought” by the franchises.
This, despite a Pakistani (Sohail Tanveer) being the highest wicket-taker in the inaugural tournament. This, despite Pakistan being the reigning world T20 champions. And this, despite some very exciting Pakistani players being up for grabs, including Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal.
The team owners have said there was “uncertainty” over the “availibility” of the Pakistani players and so no franchise wanted to take a risk. But every newspaper is quoting anonymous officials as saying there was an unwritten Union home ministry “diktat” to stay away from the Pakistanis, which has, of course, been promptly denied.
Understandably, the Pakistani stars are upset, and are talking of being insulted and made fun of. Coming close on the heels of a visa controversy, the air is already thick of a conspiracy. If the players were not going to be sold and bought, why were expectations built up? Will “buying” the Pakistanis making the tournament risky? Will keeping them away make it safer? What will be our excuse if, despite the absence of Pakistani cricketers, there is an attack?
And, is cricket as a vehicle of diplomacy bunk?
Also read: Can’t South Indians play Twenty20?