Cricket falling victim to political tension in the sub-continent is nothing new. And the Indian Premier League (IPL) bosses provided the latest instance by announcing on Tuesday that no Sri Lanka player will feature in matches to be played in Chennai during the April 3-May 26 tournament.
The IPL governing council was only bowing to political pressure after the Tamil Nadu chief minister, Jayalalithaa, announced that no IPL game would be allowed at the MA Chidambaram Stadium if any Sri Lanka player, umpire, official or support staff is involved. It comes in the wake of agitations by political parties and students in the state demanding action against Sri Lankan authorities for their alleged human rights violations against the island's Tamils.
The IPL decision means none of the 13 Sri Lanka players signed up by eight teams — Kings XI Punjab have no Sri Lanka player — will feature in any of the eight league games to be played in Chennai. Two knockout matches are also scheduled at the venue and it remains to be seen what decision the IPL chiefs take as teams will insist on fielding their best sides in the business end of the tournament.
In 2009, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) shifted the IPL to South Africa after doubts over adequate security as the event clashed with the general elections. Shifting matches out of Chennai could have allowed all franchises to field full-strength sides and some venues had also been earmarked for such an eventuality. However, the Chennai Super Kings is part-owned by BCCI president, N Srinivasan, and led by India skipper, MS Dhoni.
Team officials are unwilling to comment on the IPL Council's decision with some saying it is up to the franchise owners to decide whether to oppose the decision.
The teams that could be badly hit are the Delhi Daredevils, Mumbai Indians and newcomers Sunrisers Hyderabad. Hosts CSK will have to keep out bowlers Nuwan Kulasekara and spinner Akila Dananjaya for their eight home league ties. But Daredevils will be without skipper Mahela Jayawardene, whose batting will also be crucial in the absence of the injured England batsman Kevin Pietersen. Mumbai Indians won’t get the services of Lasith Malinga’s slinging deliveries against the former champions. Sunrisers will have to leave out Kumar Sangakkara, who led the now-defunct Deccan Chargers.
Politics disrupting the IPL is nothing new. Pakistan players have been kept out of the lucrative franchise league since the deadly 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008. Sri Lanka sports minister, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, said the Sri Lanka players will not play in the IPL without guaratees from the Indian government on their safety. His comments came after Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) sought the government’s advice on the safety of players featuring in Chennai matches. SLC secretary, Nishantha Ranatunga, said the board has sought advice from the external affairs ministry.