The rejection of Pakistani cricketers at the IPL auction is baffling because they are some of the best players in the world, especially in Twenty20 cricket. Since the auction defies cricketing logic, the people of Pakistan feel they have been humiliated, that the IPL treated the nation’s beloved stars shoddily.
No one can explain why someone like Damien Martyn, who retired from cricket over three years ago, is more useful than Shahid Afridi. Rated as the best Twenty20 player in the world, Afridi has no place in the IPL, even though he has been signed up by both Hampshire and South Australia. Also ignored were also stellar performers like Sohail Tanvir, who helped Rajasthan Royals win the first IPL tournament, and talented youngsters like Umar Akmal.
Since there has been no credible explanation why Pakistani players were put up for auction and then not bought, I feel it’s fair to believe that there was a conspiracy to keep them out. In situations such as the IPL auction, it’s not an individual, but the nation that is humiliated. You remember the time when Dilip Vengsarkar was refused an entry permit for a tournament in Sharjah? He was sent back to India, where there was anger and protests outside the UAE embassy. If Tendulkar is treated the way Pakistani players were, won’t Indian fans be angry? The players live in the people’s hearts, and it’s no wonder that Pakistanis are angry.
If the IPL didn’t want players from Pakistan, they should not have put them up for auction. But they (IPL and the franchises) played their game very cleverly, which can be best described through the proverb: saamp bhi mar jaaye, laathi bhi na toote. Sadly, these tricks can only harm cricket.
I’ve always believed that Twenty20 cricket will kill the game. The businessmen currently at the helm of affairs are not bothered about cricket; they only want to make money from it. Ideally, the ICC should not allow such tournaments, but if it’s allowing them, it should supervise them. If the ICC doesn’t intervene, then there would be more such controversies. If the ICC allows players to participate in the IPL, isn’t it their responsibility to oversee how it is run?
The IPL exists because of the BCCI and the players it has helped develop. It’s not because of Lalit Modi or other businessmen. Modi, after all, derives his power from the BCCI. His manner of operation makes you wonder: who is there to think about cricket and the cricketers? He was defeated twice last year in elections for the Rajasthan Cricket Association, showing that he isn’t considered good for cricket. Had it been otherwise, he would have won.
The IPL snub could be related to the distribution of the matches for the 2011 World Cup, to be held in the subcontinent. The venues for the Cup were renegotiated after Pakistan was deemed unsafe. The other three nations are now regularly playing among themselves: India toured Sri Lanka, then Sri Lanka toured India, and then they played in Bangladesh, ensuring revenues for each other. All this must have been planned at the time the cricket officials were discussing how to take away World Cup matches from Pakistan. Led by India, these countries conspired to keep Pakistan out. This is typical of the BCCI—it uses us and then casts us aside. There is bound to be resentment against such behaviour.
The time has come for cricket lovers and cricketers to unite, to tell these people (franchises) that we know you are here only for the money, not for cricket. The BCCI has money, and money makes a difference, but it cannot convert wrong into right.
People-to-people relations between India and Pakistan are always good. Without cricket, we’d have never seen the Indian flag being flown in Pakistan, or the Pakistani flag in India. I was the Pakistan coach when India came to Pakistan. The reception they received—not only the players, but the media and fans too—meant they returned home with good memories that melt the icy relations between the countries. People make governments; they, indeed, are the government. If people-to-people relations are good, nothing bad can happen.
The ICC and the other cricket boards should raise the IPL auction issue. They have provided the players who’re helping the IPL make money. They should also have a say in its running, and a share in the revenues. What if every board tells its players not to play in the IPL? The tournament will flop.
(Former Pakistani captain Javed Miandad spoke to Rohit Mahajan)