Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Indian Premier League most likely goes to South Africa

Maybe the name should be changed to that of the NRI Premiere League now; given that more NRI's will now be watching the match live at the ground rather than Indians. Last year, the Indian Premier League (after initial criticism of the high costs involved), turned into a spectacular crowd fest, with huge audience participation. The T-20 cricket tournament was a huge TV success, to the extent that movie makers were reluctant to release movies in the same time frame. So, when the cricket tournament was planned for the second run this year, there was a wide spread anticipation that the tournament would be even bigger and more spectacular this year.
And then the attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Pakistan, the neighboring country where attacks by militants are common. The attack was the first manifestation that radical elements were starting to attack the popular game of cricket; the first reaction was to lay out the differences between India and Pakistan in term of security and to emphasize that playing of the game was safe in India. One does not want the perception that the security situation in India is so bad that the Government cannot ensure security for international sportspersons. After all, the Commonwealth Games are planned for 2010, and security is one of the critical points.
However, it soon became clear that the Government did not really care about this logic; the argument that was becoming clear was that holding the IPL in India would not lend anything positive to the Government; however, if any security incident happened during this duration, the BJP would pounce upon the incident as another symptom of the Government being soft on terror; so the apparent simpler option was to get various Congress states to announce that they could not arrange for the proper security of the event. Here is an extract from an article that criticizes the action by the Government of India (link to article):

In the course of just one successful season, IPL had become one of the biggest global brands, comparable to Wimbledon and the football World Cup. An outpouring of meanness drove the Nano plant out of West Bengal. Last week, P Chidambaram donned the mantle of Mamata Banerjee and forced IPL out of India. Like Mamata, who felt that Ratan Tata could be browbeaten because he was a hostage to money already invested in Singur, North Block proceeded on the assumption that the IPL was a helpless captive. And just as Tata had to cut his losses and resist blackmail politics, Lalit Modi inveigled IPL out of a desperate situation with a daredevil flight to South Africa.
It is more than a little curious that the IPL faced resistance only from the Congress-ruled states. It was the firm no from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi that finally clinched the issue in favour of South Africa. In Delhi, where policing is under the direct purview of the Centre, even chief minister Sheila Dikshit was in favour of hosting matches. Yet, the police chief informed her and Delhi Cricket Association president Arun Jaitley that no permission would be forthcoming before, during and after the polling. As far as the Centre was concerned, IPL could go to hell.

There are multiple reasons why the Congress could have done this. The Congress is not particularly happy with Sharad Pawar, and even less so with Lalit Modi, and would have thought that the IPL would have to be postponed; however, the move to take the IPL out of the country was not something that the Congress liked either. So when the IPL move out of India was announced on security considerations, the Government criticized the move as trying to play politics with sports, and so on. Strange objection, given that the reason that the IPL could not be held as per schedule was that the games were supposed to be clashing with elections and that no forces could be spared for the games (the country cannot arrange for enough security to cover an event such as IPL when the elections are going on ? What happens if something serious take place on the Pakistan border ? Where will the required forces be found then ?)

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 11:45 AM