Monday, March 23, 2009

Cricket Hijacked: The BCCI's high adventurism on taking the IPL overseas must be nipped

WHO will list the atrocities carried through in the Indian fan's? Let's ask Shashank Manohar, president of the BCCI and perpetrator of the latest outrage. In a statement on Sunday, he said that the IPL would be taken overseas. Cranking up the ego war with the government on the logistics of this IPL season, he apologized to the "people of India", but comforted himself by saying that at last they'd now be able to watch the tournament on television.

Really, Mr Manohar? Is this truly what's behind this effort to start a bidding war between England and South Africa to host the IPL? Because if it is the Indian fan's benefit that's on the agenda, the BCCI's latest announcement amounts to little less than the cricketing equivalent of high treason. It is nothing less than an attempt to abduct India's favorite sport.

The government was ill-advised to have initially given the impression that India could not stage an election and a sport tournament. But to its credit, it hastened to offer cooperation in reworking the IPL schedule. By then the BCCI's IPL czar, Lalit Modi, had made it a point of prestige, and heaven knows what else. Because every comment made by him since then - and we all know how much Modi likes to talk - has set new records for the crude­ness with which he has staked ownership of Indian cricket. Cricket administrators in India hold a copyright to a certain kind of arrogance. For them cricket has been a state within a state. But as long as the game has played on, they have been allowed to be. Now that they have gone one step too far, and challenged the legitimacy of the Indian state, the government must consider what the law is so that cricket can be retrieved from such thuggish adventurism.

Let's start at the basics. Cricket matters in India because the people take it seriously. The BCCI's clout accrues from this popular interest. And it was in the interest of the game that critics hushed reservations about some of the IPL’s suspect procedures. Its opaque decision-making, for instance, and turf wars with wannabe leagues. After all, domestic cricket would find new utterance with this league format. But now the IPL chooses to amplify that turf mentality by making it seem India is not safe for cricket as usual. That's certainly not the case in a country set to host the Common­ wealth Games and the cricket world cup. And that's certainly not fair to India's fans or its first-class cricketers. For starters, the government may ask Sharad Pawar, a key member of the Union cabinet and the cricket establishment, just what his views are and what he can do to retrieve the situation.

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