In our latest 'Beyond the Boundary' piece, we take an honest, objective look at the IPL, and discuss it's continued exclusion of Pakistani cricketers.
So it is that time of year again - the Indian Premier League is once again plastered over every single source of cricket news around the globe. Once again for the majority of Indians it is a source of great pride – and rightly so - since they can afford to hold such a big event every year, whilst for many Pakistanis it is a source of great bitterness since yet again their players get treated like trash by the organisers.
Now I understand that due to the points highlighted above, the IPL and the participation of Pakistanis in the IPL – more so the lack of participation by Pakistanis in the IPL – becomes a very touchy subject to discuss. However, it is something I have quite strong, and somewhat conflicting, opinions about. Now before we go anywhere I want to make a couple of things very clear straight off the bat:
First of all let me clear up one thing – the reason I think the IPL is not the best cricket league is not due to the way the Pakistani players are treated there. Personally I am a bigger fan of the Big Bash League and even the English Domestic T20 competition since I feel these DOMESTIC leagues do more for their respective countries cricket than the IPL does. I am not talking financially – I am talking about developing young talent which can go on to play international cricket at a decent level. In my opinion the IPL has probably ruined the international career of more players then it has helped develop.
There is a reason to that - the whole point of having a domestic T20 league is to nurture your own home grown talent and prepare them for international cricket. I feel the IPL is too much of a theatrical show where the cricket – in particular the local cricket talent - takes a back seat to the entertainment, music, international & retired cricketers, cheerleaders and Bollywood stars.
Therefore, as a cricket fan I cannot justify calling the IPL the “best cricket league in the world” simply because it has the most money going in and out of it.
Now as I mentioned earlier the IPL does have its positive points. If you are Indian I am sure you would love to back your local team and it would be really enjoyable for you. I am in fact half Indian myself, so technically if I had to back a team I would back Rajasthan since that is where my family is from – I understand that. That is what domestic sport is all about.
However, it would be interesting to see how many of the players in that team are actually from your local city and what are those local players getting out of it – financially and cricket wise. For instance, I hate to burst the bubble of any delusional Hyderabadis reading this, but your three highest paid cricketers - Dale Steyn, Sangakkara and Cameron White – care about nothing other than that big fat cheque at the end of the day. Now the question arises – are you supporting Hyderabad or are you supporting Sun Network & their ‘investments’?
Doesn’t sound particularly like domestic cricket to me. It is like when my friends living here in Scotland support Manchester United – makes no sense to me.
Obviously – financially speaking it is a great asset for, not only the BCCI, but also the players who participate in it. Cricket isn’t the best paid sport in the world and the IPL offers the players financial security. However, beyond that I don’t see many more positives with regard to the IPL.
However, as a Pakistani fan no one can have any objections to me not being a fan of the IPL. In fact – I would go as far as saying that I can’t see how any Pakistani fans can be a supporter of the IPL.
Even over the period of the last six months the BCCI has done nothing but use the Pakistani cricket team and their fans. The BCCI invited Pakistan to play in India – from which they made a ton of money – and then they turned around and slammed the door in the face of the Pakistani cricketers and fans; not only with regards to the IPL but also India’s tour of Pakistan.
Now I know that India actually touring Pakistan was a very long shot, however, the series could easily have been arranged in the UAE. Instead all we got was a statement from the BCCI saying that the Indian cricketers would be “too tired to tour and play against Pakistan”.
After Pakistan’s tour of India earlier this year I wrote a piece in which I urged the authorities from both countries to continue to improve the relationships which had been developed in recent times. However, to my great disappointment I see no signs of that happening – in fact India continues to try and isolate Pakistan from the rest of the cricketing world.
What is interesting though is when I think about why the IPL is so hesitant to include Pakistan?
Could they simply want to isolate Pakistan? Possibly – however, to be honest I hope that is not the case. Regardless of anything and everything – that would be a really cheap move.
Is it possible that they are worried that the Pakistani players might be too “dominating” and overshadow the Indian stars? Maybe – we saw an interesting statement from Wasim Akram earlier in the week in which he said if Pakistanis were playing in the IPL they would easily be the leading wicket takers. Obviously I understand that will be a hard pill for the Indian fans to swallow.
Security concerns? Could that be the issue? Well Pakistan's tour of India showed that there isn’t really any problem there.
Match fixing! That must be it right?! Maybe. However, surely it's ridiculous to tarnish a whole nation based on the actions of a few. Both India and Pakistan have had their share of problems with match fixers, so I doubt that's the issue.
Alas – whatever the reason may be it is irrelevant since the carnival will go on. It’s astonishing – we are already in our 6th season of the IPL. International cricket fans continue to support their players in the IPL without caring about the team they represent (yes cricket is a team sport), Indian fans continue to support “their local team” which is full of players from other countries and Pakistani fans get excited at the prospect of Wasim Akram holding a bowling camp to help develop the fast bowling talent in the country.
Actually – you know what – out of the three categories highlighted above I am very happy being in the “Pakistani fans” category. At the moment it sounds like the only group actually doing anything which could be beneficial to the country's cricket team.