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IPL 2018: What’s Cauvery got to do with cricket?

Any connection that holding IPL matches in Chennai has with the water dispute and the consequent agrarian distress is tenuous at best

editorials Updated: Apr 13, 2018 16:33 IST
Hindustan Times
Cauvery,Tamil Nadu,Chennai Super Kings
CSK player R Jadeja kicks a shoe hurled into the ground during the IPL match between Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders, in Chennai on Tuesday night. (PTI)

On Tuesday, after a two-year suspension, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) made a much anticipated return to the Indian Premier League (IPL) on home turf when they played Kolkata Knight Riders at the MA Chidambaram stadium. But the joy over their homecoming was short-lived. The very next day, the Board of Control for Cricket in India was compelled to shift CSK’s remaining home games to Pune after the state administration expressed inability to ensure the required security arrangements. Before the match, protesters from political groups such as the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, the Tamizhaga Vazhvumurai Katchi, the Viduthalai Thamizh Puligal Katchi and the Naam Thamizhar laid siege to the Anna Salai, the city’s arterial road, raising slogans against the hosting of matches at a time when the state was protesting the Centre’s purported inaction over the resolution of the Cauvery water dispute with Karnataka. Outside the stadium, there were calls for cancellation, threats of disruption and reports of fans being assaulted and forced to remove CSK jerseys. Inside, a protester hurled a shoe on to the pitch that landed near Ravindra Jadeja. Six Naam Thamizhar members were arrested.

The tensions had been building up over the last few weeks. On February 16, the Supreme Court had upheld the Cauvery Tribunal’s verdict and suggested a formula that gave Tamil Nadu a smaller but assured share through the constitution of the Cauvery Management Board. The top court had granted the Centre six weeks for the formation of the board. The six-week deadline lapsed on March 29.

IPL 2018 could have been a great advertisement for Chennai’s return to cricketing action. Instead it turned into a contest for political opportunism. The state’s politicians chose to attack the league and its fans. Nobody exemplifies this opportunism better than actor-turned politician, Rajinikanth. Two weeks ago, CSK players MS Dhoni, Darren Bravo and Murali Vijay featured in a video teaser to promote his upcoming film Kaala. Within days, he was asking the same players to wear black badges during the matches. Pulling matches out of Chennai can in no way help the Tamil farmers who are dependent on the Cauvery for their farms. Any connection that holding IPL matches in Chennai has with the water dispute and the consequent agrarian distress is tenuous at best. Clearly, the regional parties want to cash in on the anti-Centre emotion building up in Tamil Nadu and capture eyeballs during the IPL and bring attention to an issue often ignored by the Centre and the media. But the manner in which even the government capitulated, with a minister reportedly asking IPL organisers to call off the matches, is abdication of responsibility.

First Published: Apr 12, 2018 18:11 IST