The decision of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Governing Council to accede to the demand of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa not to field the Sri Lankan players in Chennai is fraught with danger, even if it is a carefully thought out political move by her or the centre.
IPL Governing Council chairman Rajeev Shukla chose his words carefully in elaborating the reasons for asking the franchises to pull out the Sri Lankan players when they play in Chennai even before the prime minister could read and reply to Jayalalithaa’s letter making the demand. He sounded so unconvincing while being grilled by a TV anchor.
Indian cricket board president Narayanswamy Srinivasan may have something to do with the Governing Council decision to adopt the course of least resistance. The reason is not far to seek: he has his business empire in Tamil Nadu, he owns a Chennai-based IPL franchise and, curiously, he is a major cement supplier to Sri Lanka!
Shukla and Srinivasan have harmed cricket more by thoughtlessly agreeing to keep the Sri Lankan players out of Chennai, instead of calling the chief minister’s bluff by threatening to shift the matches out.
Whatever be the political equations or compulsions, the move could have far-reaching repercussions unless the the richest board is thinking that it could overpower anyone with the its money clout, like it got away refusing to use the Umpires Decisions Review System when all others had accepted it.
What if tomorrow Sri Lanka says Ravichandran Ashwin and Murali Vijay should not be included in a team playing in Colombo?
Can the meek Sri Lankan board there stand up its government when a strong Indian board has accepted a diktat from a state government which thinks allowing Sri Lankans to play in Chennai “will aggravate an already surcharged atmosphere and further offend the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu”.
The IPL chairman tried to wriggle out, issuing a bland statement saying: “We have to take the local sentiments into account and at the same time the safety and security of the Sri Lankan players are paramount. If the local administration has given something we have to listen to that as ultimately we need the help of the state authorities to hold the tournament, like security arrangements.”
The next unreasonable demand by Jayalalithaa would be to put pressure on the Hyderabad Sunrisers to dump their captain Kumar Sangakkara because the franchise is owned by staunch DMK family members.
To go one better on the ruling AIDMK, the franchise owners might sacrifice Sangakkara after Jayalalithaa taunted Karunanidhi in the state assembly as to why he was silent on the presence of the Sri Lankan in a team owned by his grandnephew.
In 2009, when the union home ministry stated that it could neither provide the paramilitary forces nor force the state governments to provide security for the second edition of the IPL as it was clashing with the general election, the then commissioner of the Twenty20 tournament – the irrepressible Lalit Modi – took the event out of India.
The opposition-ruled states at that time were quick to blame the Congress for playing politics as Modi was seen as a Bharatiya Janata Party sympathiser in view of his proximity to former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia and the two state governments which expressed helplessness in sparing the police were Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Ironically, Sri Lanka was one of the countries which offered to host the IPL, which was eventually relocated to South Africa. Of course, Modi had to pay a heavy price for taking on the high and the mighty.
Come to think of it, the incumbent chairman of the IPL Governing Council is a mercurial Congressman and a union minister at that!
(28.03.2013 – V. Srivatsa is the sports editor of IANS. The views expressed are personal and not of the organisation. He can be reached at [email protected])