Shunning Pakistani players is not cricket

January 21, 2010
(The Pakistani cricket team)

(The Pakistani cricket team)

Pakistani cricketers, the press and ordinary people are livid about their players’ exclusion from India’s Premier League , the game’s most lucrative tournament played out before a vast television audience. Eight Indian teams that take part in the tournament bid for players  from around the world, doling out large sums of money.  But nobody bid for the 11 Pakistani players on the list, includng some who were part of the Pakistani squad that won last year’s  World Cup Twenty20 tournament, the three-hour version of the game that the IPL is also played in.

It’s not that they were not good enough. They are some of the best the game has to offer. It’s that the people who own the teams fear the Pakistani players may face dificulties getting visas or that tensions between the two countries, already rising, could make things dificult  for them  So why put money on them ?

But then, as former Pakistani skipper Ramiz Raja writes in The Indian Express why were the Pakistani players invited to play  in India in the first place,and indeed put on the list of players to be auctioned. They had even been given cricket visas, he says , adding these men are much like their counterparts in India, heroes of the nation. And so it’s not just the players who have been snubbed,  a whole nation feels insulted.

“The Sports Ministry and Parliament have got the knives out, terming this selection as a snub, and as a great Indian conspiracy to insult the nation and belittle the status of its cricketers,” Raja writes.

One of the players ,Shahid Afridi, who is widely seen as a game-changer the day he gets going, said he felt snubbed. “The IPL and India have made fun of us and our country,” he is quoted as saying in this Times report.

The failure of the IPL to bid for any of its players will only add to Pakistan’s growing sense of sporting isolation. Last year, after India pulled out of a tournament with Pakistan citing security concerns, their replacements, Sri Lanka, were attacked by militants in Lahore. Pakistan was then stripped of its role as a co-host of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, which it was due to hold with India and Bangladesh.

The snub over cricket adds insult to  injury as Pakistan continues to smart over India’s refusal to resume talks saying Islamabad must first act fully against those responsible for the Mumbai attacks of 2008.  On top of renewed cross-border firing in Kashmir and even in Punjab in recent days, a bust-up over cricket, the one thing that broke barriers between the two countries, seems unnecessary, as the Indian media itself is saying.

Indian security blog The Acorn,  which has traditionally taken a tough line on Pakistan, said the cricket decision was wrong. The government has distanced itself from the controversy, saying  it had no role to play in the IPL decision.

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