LAHORE: Pakistan cricketers were ignored and humiliated by the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises at the players’ auction in Mumbai, India on Tuesday. With this snub, no Pakistan cricketer will feature in the third edition of the IPL to be held across India from March 12 to April 25.
None of the 11 players, who went under the hammer, including flamboyant all-rounder Shahid Afridi were sold despite Pakistan being the reigning World Twenty20 champions. Pakistan cricketers took part in the IPL’s inaugural season in 2008, but were denied permission by Islamabad to play in the second IPL edition last year due to growing political tensions with India after the November 2008 attacks on India’s financial hub Mumbai. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) did however clear the players to take part in this year’s IPL, but the delay in securing Indian visas created an obstacle, with approval only coming through at the last minute. Multi-millionaire owners of the eight clubs, who attended the auction, declined to comment on why the Pakistan players were kept out.
But one thing is clear that this IPL humiliation will further damage the relationship between the PCB and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which tends to mirror relations between rivals India and Pakistan. The IPL this time around could have been a platform to build bridges between both countries. But India has shown its ‘true colours’ by mixing sports with politics. In fact, India is trying to damage Pakistan cricket purely on political grounds for the last many years. The last year’s decision to move the World Cup 2011 out of Pakistan was due to India’s ‘big hand’. India is hell bent upon isolating its archrival. But the PCB is blind as a bat to see all this. Pakistan cricket is desperately in need of good old-fashioned honest appraisal of its relationship with India.
Pakistan players have said they are feeling humiliated. “We applied for the IPL only on their insistence and not on our own,” Afridi told media from Australia, where he is featuring in the domestic Twenty20 competition. Afridi called it a snub to his country. “The way I see it, the IPL and India have made fun of us and our country. We are the Twenty20 world champions and for me the attitude of the franchises was disappointing. I feel bad for the Indian people who, I am sure, wanted to see us play in the IPL this year.” All-rounder Abdul Razzaq said politics and sports should be kept separate. “They have basically tried to hurt our cricket and image and this is most disappointing because I believe there should be no politics in sports,” Razzaq said. Fast bowler Sohail Tanveer helped the Rajasthan Royals win the first title and finished as the best bowler. “We have been in demand and made a lot of friends in the first edition but this is disappointing that we were first asked to apply and then not included in the bidding,” said Tanveer.
Pakistan’s sports minister said he had complained to his Indian counterpart after Pakistan cricketers were snubbed. “I have phoned the sports minister of India and recorded a protest over the unjust and discriminatory treatment meted out to Pakistan cricketers,” sports minister Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani told reporters. “It is indeed a matter of disrespect of Pakistani heroes, who are the Twenty20 world champions. Pakistan ministries of sports, interior and foreign affairs had given political and security clearance to Pakistan players in time to play,” he added. PCB chairman Ijaz Butt said that Tuesday’s snub ‘depressed’ him. “It is really very disappointing because we cleared all the hurdles in the players’ way (over) visas and clearance… I will definitely talk to IPL chairman Lalit Modi on this issue,” he said.
Of a total of 66 players up for bid, only 11 were sold, with West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard and New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond drawing the highest prices at $750,000 each. Pollard was picked up by Mumbai Indians, owned by India’s richest industrialist Mukesh Ambani, while Bond went to Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders. Another West Indian, Kemar Roach, attracted $720,000 from 2009 champions Deccan Chargers. Promising South African paceman Wayne Parnell was sold to Delhi Daredevils for $610,000. Other star players who were ignored at the auction were Australian Test wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, England spinner Graeme Swann, West Indian Ramnaresh Sarwan and Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan.