If reports are indeed true, then home minister P Chidambaram’s outburst (read here) at the wilful boycotting of Pakistani players by the IPL franchisees adds a new layer to this fetid mess. PC denies that there was any nudge-nudge, wink-wink from the government, or any signalling to IPL franchisees to snub Pakistani players. Interestingly, and somewhat inexplicably, filmstar Shah Rukh Khan has also suddenly emerged out of the woodwork to voice his displeasure at the turn of events.
But, IPL is playing an extremely hazardous game if it is indeed over-estimating its clout and trying to use that to influence the country’s foreign policy. Last year, it locked horns with the authorities by shifting the IPL matches to South Africa because the government said it could not provide adequate security for players in view of the impending general elections. What was appalling was IPL’s intractable stand.
First, it refused to pay for and provide private security. Strange as it might sound, here was a private enterprise (admittedly with a sound business model) which wanted the government to spend tax-payers’ money to help it carry on its private business. Cute. But, what was even more worrisome was the fact that it refused to pay heed to the government’s legitimate reason for its inability to provide security: general elections across the country with a gruelling schedule spread over 30 days. The message from IPL was posed like a question: what’s more important, IPL matches or elections?
In this latest display of audacity, there are rumours that the government might have conveyed to the IPL franchisees that the responsibility of ensuring players’ security lay with the League. And, if reports are to be believed, it is this that might have prompted franchisees to give the Pakistani players a miss. Whatever the reason might be, IPL needs to get some reality check. Celebrity status for some of its members doesn’t guarantee immunity from national priorities.