Show must go on - Column by Sunil Gavaskar

2009 Mar 08 by

The Indian Premier League is a domestic tournament. Let us get that clear right at the start. It may have overseas players participating in it but it is still a domestic event of the BCCI in the latest format of the sport; the T20.

The Indian Premier League is a domestic tournament. Let us get that clear right at the start. It may have overseas players participating in it but it is still a domestic event of the BCCI in the latest format of the sport; the T20. The BCCI also has other tournaments like the Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy which are first class tournaments recognized by the International Cricket Council too. This year the BCCI had allowed overseas players to participate in the Ranji tournament and the odd overseas player did play though they were not high profile or star players. So it is not as if there are no foreign players in India's domestic tournament.

After the attack on the Sri Lankan team and ICC match officials in Lahore, suddenly questions are being asked about the feasibility of having the IPL in India at the same time as the general elections. Last year when the Karnataka assembly elections were held, the IPL matches in Bangalore were shifted away and rescheduled so as not to clash with the election dates there and the tournament went on smoothly and ended up on a high with a last ball finish in the finals. With the general elections to be held in various phases and on different dates, there is similar scope for the matches to be rescheduled in such a way that security for the tournament is not compromised.

On most days there will be at best two matches played at different venues and these venues will not clash with the elections. With eight teams in the IPL there are 8 match centres and maybe they may have to be increased so as to ensure that there is no clash with elections and so there really should not be any issues at all.

Of course in today's world, no security can be foolproof anwhere in the world including England but does that mean sport should come to a standstill? More crucially, the question is if it was the Ranji Trophy clashing with the general elections would there be such a big issue made out of it as is being done with the IPL? Are we to presume that overseas lives are far more precious than Indian lives?

The reason that this question is being asked is that just like the Ranji Trophy, the IPL is also a domestic tournament albeit with overseas players in it. Don't our Ranji players play in cities and states where terrorist activities have taken place? Those games were not cancelled, were they? What signal are we trying to send? That a terrorist attack in Lahore can destabilize our domestic tourney? What picture does it paint of our security and intelligence agencies? The Indian cricket lover is looking forward to the IPL and there is no doubt that there is likely to be a voter backlash if he is deprived of watching his favourite stars and backing his favourite team.

The sad part is that instead of helping our domestic event it is us Indians who are trying to put spokes in the wheels of what is the cricketing world's envy. A cancellation will give opportunities to other countries like England to stake a claim for holding similar events and despite there being instances of terrorist activities there too and no guarantee of total safety, the very same people who are screaming themselves hoarse about having tournaments in India will be gung-ho about having it outside.

There are reports too about how some overseas players are having second thoughts about coming to India in the wake of the Lahore attacks but then they are naive to think that India and Pakistan are the same. The England team, God bless them, came back to India within a fortnight after Mumbai's two iconic hotels were savaged and played a two Test series with no problems whatsoever. Sure they had done due dilligence on the security and only after they were satisfied did they resume the tour and it was incident free and they went back with more Indian supporters than since the time they were ruling the world.

Quite simply, if overseas players don't come it is their choice and they will be the losers and not the tournament. The event last year brought many an unknown Indian talent to the fore and that is exactly what any withdrawals will do. Give more chances to the Indian players and save the franchises paying some who are overrated and thus overpaid. By the way, have you noticed that none of the support staff, many of whom have come in thanks to their countrymen's influence over the franchises have expressed any concern about coming to India. They know they are on to a good thing but it will only be for another year due to the contract with the franchises and they are not fools and will know when they are being taken for a ride. Already some of the franchises have laid off support staff after seeing the nepotism and chicanery of the hired ones last year. However, that is a story for another day.