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.

Related Links:

Sports Draw Big Money, Megastars in India

Transcripts of Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

Pittsburgh Pirates Sign Young Indian Cricketers

Cricket Superbowl


Anonymous said...

That said-I do not think any Pakistan cricketer is safe if he is in India now.The public repeatedly mentioned that they are not interested to see a Pakistan cricketer in India.We need to respect their wishes.If Pakistan does not punish the perpretators-you can forget about cricket ties with India for the next few years.It is sad because India has missed the great talent of Wasim Akram who is the most Pakistan respected cricketer in India.Pakistan cannot blame India-they need to tour other countries and decrease dependency on India which will also ease unneccary pressure on India. India cannot blamed for not touring as no country except Srilanka,Bangladesh are interested to go to pakistan.Talking of cricket and music ties will not work if Pakistan continues to sponsor terrorists.Cricket can wait.The author needs to understand the public sentiments in India.

Anonymous said...

We must tell the author key 'Gandey bachon key saath naheen khailtey'

Anonymous said...

I do not think any Pakistan cricketer is safe if he is in India now.

Not true. The Indian crowd is not not going to make life uncomfortable for Pakistani cricketers. I know I'll miss Shoaib's bowling. Guys like him, Dhoni, Flintoff, Pietersen, Sehwag provide real drama for the paying spectator.

We must tell the author key 'Gandey bachon key saath naheen khailtey'

Don't agree. The cricketers have done nothing to deserve this. They - along with many in Pakistan - likely feel terrible about Mumbai. Collective punishment is a slippery slope.

I do agree that we need to use what little leverage we have on Pakenstein. It would have been nice if we had built some economic leverage when the going was good, so we could squeeze now that times are harder. Instead we're back to hopelessly implausible denials from Pak - and India can do squat about it. I hope the Indian electorate teaches Manmohan and his band of lily-livers a lesson not to be forgotten in the coming elections. And gets in shape militarily - to match it's growing economic and political clout.

Riaz Haq said...

Following a row between Sashi Tharoor and Lalit Modi, there have been allegation of money laundering via IPL franchises in India. Here's a BBC report:

India has ordered an investigation into the financing of the Indian Premier League (IPL) following allegations of corruption in the cricket tournament.

The move follows the resignation of junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor amid controversy over his role in bidding for one of the IPL's new teams.

India's finance minister said "no wrong-doer would be spared" in the probe into the league's funding.

But IPL chief Lalit Modi denies any allegations of funding irregularities.

Mr Modi has described the claims as "absolutely baseless".

Opposition lawmakers in parliament have alleged that the league has been used for money laundering and illegal betting.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told parliament that tax authorities had already begun an investigation.

"All aspects including sources of funding and routes through which the funds arrived would be looked into," he said.

Indian cricket's governing body also said it would meet to discuss the allegations against the tournament.

Media reports suggest there are plans to force Lalit Modi from his office.

The IPL has become a multi-billion dollar industry, which attracts some of India's wealthiest businessmen and women.

Cricket's popularity with the Indian masses means that politicians are also keen to get involved with the sport, BBC correspondents say.

Public spat

Mr Tharoor resigned on Sunday after a row over allegations that a female friend, Dubai-based businesswoman Sunanda Pushkar, received a free stake in a new IPL franchise.

He denies any wrongdoing in the bid for the new Kochi cricket team, to be based in his home state of Kerala.

Mr Tharoor claimed he was just a mentor for the team and denied allegations that he was set to benefit financially.

He and Ms Pushkar say the stake was awarded as "sweat equity" in return for marketing and professional services to the new franchise - but Ms Pushkar has now offered to surrender the stake.

His resignation followed a public spat between Lalit Modi, the head of the IPL, and Mr Tharoor over ownership of the new cricket team for Kochi.

Kochi was sold to Rendezvous Sports World Limited for $333m at auction. It and Pune are to join the IPL from 2011, taking the total number of teams to 10.

Meanwhile in Bangalore, officials are angry that this week's semi-finals have been moved to Mumbai for security reasons.

Politicians and police in the city say they were not consulted about the move, which followed two small bombs before a game on Saturday.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC commentary on Lalit Modi's rise and fall:

Lalit Modi is the biggest sporting impresario India has ever produced - cricket's answer to Don King of boxing or Bernie Ecclestone of Formula One.

More than a decade ago, Modi helped international sports channel ESPN win the rights to broadcast cricket matches in India, where state TV had until then had a monopoly.

Years later, he shaped the hugely successful and lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) with all its colour and razzmatazz.

But today, the IPL guru is mired in allegations of money laundering, improperly awarding franchises for new teams and, worse, possible match-fixing.

'Trial by media'

Modi, 46, maintains he has done nothing wrong.

"It is a trial by the media, nothing has been proved," he told a jam-packed DY Patil stadium in Mumbai (Bombay) on Sunday night, seconds after Chennai Super Kings had won the third edition of the IPL.

The Indian government inquiry will take months, probably years - but that Modi is down and out from the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI), the world's richest cricket board, is amply clear.

In just a few years Lalit Modi turned the IPL into a $4.13bn commercial phenomenon that Forbes called the world's fastest growing sporting event. It attracted business tycoons and Bollywood stars, but cricket watchers say he rarely followed the rules.

He decided almost anything and everything that happened within the IPL.

Lalit Modi studied for a sports management degree at North Carolina's Duke University Business School in the United States.

While a student there he was convicted of kidnapping and assault.

A spokeswoman for the North Carolina courts told the BBC that Modi received a two-year suspended jail sentence and a $10,000 fine in June 1985 after entering a plea bargain.

Armed with his degree, Modi later returned to India to introduce the magic of ESPN's high-voltage cricket coverage.

He also handled global brands like Estee Lauder and Phillip Morris, and was instrumental in bringing Fashion TV to India. A scion of the multi-millionaire family which owns Modi Enterprises, he is also a member of the board of Godfrey Philips, a top Indian tobacco company.

Modi - who owns a private jet and a yacht - always wanted to live life king size, a popular marketing tag for one of his cigarette brands.

Ever the showman, he arrived at the ground in Mumbai for the IPL final in a helicopter. Some have called him the man with the Midas touch.

He flaunts his power by moving around with a phalanx of private bodyguards, the first sports official in India to do so. His aides say there are threats to his life because of his high profile.

Lalit Modi likes the high life, combining cricket with entertainment. Guests paid up to $1,000 to attend his after-match parties where they could mingle with cricketers, starlets and models.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are two stories on Pakistan Super League:

Haroon Lorgat, the former International Cricket Council boss who is now a consultant for the Pakistan Cricket Board’s new Twenty20 league, feels it has got huge potential and will attract top foreign players to participate in the event soon.

In an exclusive interview to Gulf News, Lorgat, who stopped over in Dubai after launching the logo of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore, said: “There is a lot of potential for the PSL. We all know that Twenty20 cricket is now a reality and professional cricket in the form of franchise-based models is now common and people understand it. So professional leagues will develop and Pakistan, which has some 180 million people, are very passionate for the game of cricket. They have amazing talent within the country and the response I have seen for this league has even excited me.”

Lorgat, who was the Chief Executive of ICC during a crucial phase, strongly believes that foreign players will return to play in Pakistan.

“Foreign players should come to play in Pakistan. We all know the negative perceptions about safety and security. It is something which is real and the PCB will put in place a security plan to deal with the risks and perceptions. The enquiries received from some very good foreign international players to play in the league are extremely encouraging. If I look at what has already been confirmed and what is in the pipeline, it bodes well. I hope some of the real super stars too will consider though I do understand that it will be up to each individual to decide. I have been to Pakistan a number of times recently and Lahore is quite a normal place. Cricket goes on there and I know that Pakistan will put appropriate safety and security measures in place.”


Answering to a query why Pakistan players are good Twenty20 players and whether it has to do with their physique or skill, Lorgat said: “It is a combination of a number of things. They certainly have serious talent and skill. We all know how often Pakistan select new players that thrills the world. They appear to work a lot harder these days and I have seen their academy which is very impressive. They have good process in place to develop their players, their disciplines have also improved and with their skills they will always produce match winners. “

The Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) plans of involving international cricketers in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) are likely to get a boost after some Australian players, who took part in the Sri Lankan Premier League (SLPL), indicated that they would like to be a part of the event.

It has been learnt that the Pakistani players, who were part of the SLPL, tried convincing foreign players to participate in the PSL and received an encouraging response from them. The Australians part of SLPL included Brad Hodge, Clint McKay, Dirk Nannes and Adam Voges among others.

“Australian players have shown interest in the PSL,” a PCB official told The Express Tribune. “They were receiving $20,000-$35,000 in SLPL and with an opportunity of earning up to $100,000 in Pakistan, we’re hopeful it will be an attractive enough proposition for them. Their presence would be vital to our pursuit of the revival of international cricket in Pakistan.”

The official was hopeful that a successfully executed PSL would help them to host international matches in Pakistan.

“We need to set a precedent through the PSL that Pakistan is safe for sports and it won’t be difficult in convincing teams to play here as it’s right now.”

Riaz Haq said...

The Indian Supreme Court has banned two IPL teams, Chinnai's CSK owned by ICC chair Srinivasan, and Rajhastan Royals owned by Shipla Shetty.

EVEN by the turbulent standards of Indian cricket politics, the ongoing collision between the country’s Supreme Court and cricket board is astonishing. In recent months India’s top judges have been quietly examining the latest allegations of cronyism and corruption in the world’s richest national tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL). At a hearing on March 27th, they unveiled a list of preliminary responses to these allegations. It would amount to a radical shake-up of one of India’s most opulent and powerful institutions, with potentially enormous repercussions for Indian cricket and the global administration of the game that India dominates.

The judges propose that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) must urgently remove its boss, N. Srinivasan (pictured). His alleged conflict of interests—Mr Srininvasan’s family firm, India Cements, owns the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), an IPL side—is at the centre of the recent scandals. They began last year when Mr Srinivasan’s son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, an official at CSK, was arrested and charged with betting on IPL games and other offenses. The judges further propose that employees of India Cements, who appear to include several members of India’s cricket elite—including the captain of the national side, Mahendra Singh Dhoni—should be banned from holding positions in the BCCI.

CSK and another IPL side, Rajasthan Royals, should be suspended from the forthcoming IPL tournament, the judges advise. The Royals—part-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s son Lachlan—provided another recent scandal when three of its players were arrested on suspicion of match-fixing. These and other allegations of corruption, the Supreme Court says, should now be given an independent investigation, which the BCCI has doggedly refused to provide. Meanwhile, the cricket board should be presided over by an “outsider”. Sunil Gavaskar, a great cricketer of the 1970s and 1980s, has been suggested. In the event that the BCCI refuses to follow these helpful tips, the court is expected to order it to do so, perhaps this week.

Anyone familiar with the activism of India’s highest court will not be altogether amazed by this. Armed with extraordinary powers, its judges are accustomed to playing an exceedingly forward role in mitigating the rottenness and disfunctionality in Indian public life. In recent years they have, among diverse interventions, called on the government to review the official measure of poverty, barred politicians with criminal records from standing for office and ordered buses in Delhi to switch from diesel to compressed natural gas. Yet the BCCI is arguably the judges’ most formidable target yet.

Highly politicised, hugely wealthy, largely unaccountable and arguably more representative of India’s new economic clout than any other national body, the cricket board wields enormous influence in India and abroad. That is, in a corrupt country, a recipe for relentless scandals. The IPL, a tournament owned by the board but invested in by many of India’s most rich and glamorous people, has been beset by allegations of corruption and fraud ever since its creation, in 2008. Hitherto, the board’s power has also made it largely untouchable; hence the impunity displayed by Mr Srinivasan. That will now be much harder; the BCCI is expected to give its response to the courts on March 28th.