The pitch was bad. The conditions were worse. Ever since the terrorist attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket squad in Lahore on March 3, it became apparent that if bedlam was to be avoided, the choice before the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) was straightforward: either cancel this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL), or ship it out of India for this one time. With the ICC Twenty20 World Cup scheduled in England from June 5, postponement was not an option. And with some state governments closing their doors on the tournament citing security concerns during elections, things got sticky.
With the Rajasthan Home Minister calling IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi a ‘cheat’ for reportedly lying about the state having had said no to Jaipur as one of the venues, bedlam was indeed close at hand. On Sunday morning, the BCCI put a close to that chaotic and nasty innings by announcing that IPL 2 would be up and running as planned between April 10 and May 24, but will take place in a yet-to-be-decided foreign country.
This decision hasn’t made anyone in India happy — least of all India’s cricket lovers who were looking forward to participating in the localised festivities beyond their TV screens. Franchise owners will also be keen to know how they can recuperate some of the money they have sunk into their teams. The IPL grey suits will continue to sulk about the consequences of failing to push through a sweet deal here at home. Even the governments who opposed the IPL will be a tad nervous about their role in ‘scaring’ the tournament abroad being noticed by voters.
But what has been exposed in slow motion and from all possible angles is how the whole issue has turned into an ugly showdown of egos, accusations and counter-accusations. Even the BCCI’s decision — especially the BCCI’s decision — to host the IPL outside India has the flavour of petty revenge. When BCCI president Shashank Manohar announced on Sunday that the IPL will be moved out of India “because of the attitude of the government,” it sounded as if he was finger-pointing, not presenting an explanation. In the meantime, players in the ‘batting’ Congress and the ‘fielding’ BJP effortlessly turned the issue of ‘security for cricket during elections’ into a political ball to be thwacked about the pre-poll stadium. All this should have been — and could have been — avoided, if for nothing else but to spare the cricketers from looking like performing fleas waiting for their cues. The security concerns of hosting the IPL in India during elections are genuine and shifting it abroad is the best way of going around an obstacle. What is a pity is that the BCCI’s decision on Sunday doesn’t seem to reflect that at all.