In sports as in war, the spotlight is on those who fight it out in the middle. It is in sports that the spectator puts himself in the shoes of the player and experiences the joy of victory or the lows of defeat, as if felt by the player himself. When the sport is cricket which is adored by the majority of the subcontinent, emotions always run higher than normal. Cricket is a religion and the players are the gods. When something concerns cricket, it always gets blown up.
The most recent controversy surrounding this sport is the fact that none of the Pakistani players at the IPL Season 3 Auction were considered by any of the league teams. It so happened that even though players were issued letters of No Objection by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), and appeared for the IPL auction, none were signed up. Some of the reasons being given for this are the state of relations between our two countries and also the financial implications if the players NOC’s were revoked. To be true to facts, the PCB does not show itself in good stead, for in the past it has denied NOC’s to players. These are pretty legitimate concerns on part of the team owners and can not be discounted.
The decisions can be justified by application of logic; the only problem is that Sports and Sports Fans are not logical. It’s as simple as a cricket Fan expecting the Indian cricket team to win every match it plays. That being said, given the celebrity nature of cricket in India and Pakistan, it’s safe to say that the people hold their cricketing icons dear. It’s against this light that the humiliating way in which the IPL bosses went about their way selecting players at the auction is to be condemned. Putting up players for auction and then not bidding on them, if not humiliating in itself is only amplified by the fact that none of the players from the entire country were bid upon, despite being represented strongly. The only consolation is the fact only 2 of the 11 Australians were sold in the auctions. A number not as low as a zero but low nonetheless, could it have become an issue if none of the Australians were selected. Guess it would have, if someone painted it as retaliation for the Racist attacks in Australia.
When the Indian government lashes out at the Pakistani government, it is to be expected that a part of the population of Pakistan might agree with the Indian government. This is because not everyone supports the policies of their government, or the state of things. But when the issue at hand is something everyone can relate to, it is as if it’s against the people them self, in this case through the seemingly unfair discriminative treatment of Pakistani Players.
One can only imagine how we would feel if the seniors players from the Indian team were rejected by some fancy cricket board abroad, after being allowed to put their names forward for the tournament. This new controversy shows the IPL in bad light. It is also a reflection on the shoddiness of the decision making process and an indicator of the levels of maturity of the league. This seems to be one instance where more red tapes and regulations would do some good.
The stats as per online sources () the players up for auction is as follows, 11 from Australia, 11 from South Africa, 9 from Sri Lanka, 11 from Pakistan, 4 from New Zealand, 8 from England and 8 from West Indies . Only 2 Australians were picked up. Putting up players as iconic as Afridi and not bidding is sending a strong message. Maybe the league teams should have notified the board that they were not planning to bid on the Pakistani players or maybe the board should have first got a letter of interest in a player from at least one league team before allowing the player to appear in the auction. But it is no use talking about what could have been as it is water over the bridge now.
The episode has had a lot of repercussions as such. The PCB officials are up in arms with demands for the director of PCB to resign over this issue. Parties like the Shiva Sena are proclaiming this as a verdict against the Pakistani’s. The recent clash between Shah Rukh Khan and Shiva Sena has steered much focus from the fact that Pakistani players were overlooked at the auctions. I would rather like to believe that the India Pakistan relationship crisis is a product of governments arguing over issues of territory, led along by elements in each society that have vested interests.
Sports heal broken bonds. It is one place where people come together and share something they have in common. You don’t have to watch Invictus by Clint Eastwood to know how sports can bridge gaps. Sports have the power to make and also can very easily break as well? And gestures like the ones that happened at the IPL auction and the aftermath can very well be one of those bad moments. Hope measures are taken to make sure something like this doesnt happen again, rather than haggling over who is more Indian the Indian in you, SRK or the Shiva Sena.
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