Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Cutting Sports Ties: Lose-Lose Proposition in South Asia
India's decision to cancel Pakistan's cricket tour followed by Pakistan's decision to ban its cricketers' participation in Indian Premier League (IPL) are very disappointing to the cricket lovers around the world. Clearly, the emotions are still running high in the wake of Mumbai terrorist attacks for which India blames Pakistan. Pakistan denies its involvement.
Pakistani players were a major draw in the first IPL tournament with all-rounder Sohail Tanvir guiding his Rajasthan Royals to the title and winning the best bowler award. IPL is keenly followed in Pakistan and many Indian players such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Irfan Pathan and Mahinder Dhoni are revered by Pakistani sports fans.
Around a dozen Pakistani cricketers are signed up with different franchises in the IPL while five others, including leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, were entered in a players auction to be held in Goa on Thursday. IPL's Lalit Modi has confirmed that no Pakistani players will participate in the Goa auction. As to the impact on the various IPL teams, Jaipur will certainly miss the services of paceman Sohail Tanvir — the highest wicket-taker in last year's IPL with 21 scalps — and keeper-batsman Kamran Akmal. The defending champions have already lost Australia's Shane Watson to injury. Kolkata Knight Riders too, will miss paceman Umar Gul.
ICL (Indian Cricket League), IPL's competition, is also the subject of ongoing controversy in Pakistan. Pakistan's cricket board has banned players who play in ICL from participating in domestic cricket. But the latest reports indicate that the Sind High Court has temporarily lifted this ban. Effectively, the order means the group of 19 cricketers in the league can - and some will - take part in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the domestic first-class competition. The ban on their participation in international cricket, however, remains since it is not yet a point of argument in the legal proceedings.
The India-Pakistan cricket boycott is now spreading to other sports as well. Pakistani sports ministry has now refused permission to the national hockey and squash teams to travel to India for international events.
Sporting heroes and events in South Asia put a friendly face on the perceived enemies and allow us to see each other as competitive human beings and friendly rivals rather than merely hateful adversaries out to literally destroy each other. Cricketing ties allow both cricket-crazy nations to take out their aggression against each other in a friendly superbowl of cricket, rather than a nuclear battlefield.
These sports bans of various kinds are misguided. Not only are such actions detrimental to sports, they are downright dangerous for the future of peaceful coexistence between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors.
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