March 26: Indian Premier League authorities today decided that Sri Lankan players would not play in this year's league matches in Chennai after Jayalalithaa wrote to the Prime Minister that they would not be allowed to.
A media release by IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla said the IPL governing council took the decision because "the security of all involved... whether players, spectators or those working in the stadiums, is of paramount importance".
The Tamil Nadu chief minister's letter to Manmohan Singh had said that Sri Lankan participation would aggravate the public anger in Tamil Nadu against Colombo's alleged war crimes against Lankan Tamils.
She said her government would "permit" IPL matches in Tamil Nadu "only if the organisers provide an undertaking that no Sri Lankan players, umpires, officials or support staff would participate in these matches".
She asked the Centre to "advise" the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) "to prevail upon the IPL organisers" on the matter.
The ban will hit 13 Sri Lankan players signed up by eight franchises ' Kings XI Punjab being the lone exception ' for this year's IPL, to be held from April 3 to May 26. Two of them, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, are captains of their teams. (See chart)
Chennai is to stage 10 matches in all: eight Chennai Super Kings home games and two eliminators. Shukla's media release said the nine franchises would be advised about the Sri Lankan players' non-participation "in the Pepsi IPL 2013 League matches in Chennai".
It wasn't clear from the wording whether the ban covered the eliminators, too.
A PTI report said that although the franchises may agree to bench their Sri Lankan players for their league games in Chennai, they may be less keen to do so for the crucial eliminators on May 21 and 22. In that case, there may be pressure on the BCCI to change the venues for these two games.
Chennai Super Kings have two Sri Lankan players: Nuwan Kulasekara and Akila Dananjaya. At the moment it is unclear whether they will travel with the team for the away matches or have no role to play in this year's IPL at all.
Jayalalithaa had earlier refused to allow the Asian Athletic Championships to be held in Chennai in July this year citing the participation of Sri Lankans. Her latest diktat could make Tamil Nadu a no-go zone for any Sri Lankan sportsperson in the near future just as Mumbai has become out of bounds for Pakistani sportspersons courtesy the Shiv Sena.
Even during the recent India-Australia Test at Chepauk, some Tamil fringe groups had planned to show black flags to Sri Lankan umpire Kumar Dharmasena, prompting the police to turn back spectators wearing black shirts or T-shirts on the first day. Many stepped out and bought India jerseys from the vendors outside before returning to the stadium.
The Jayalalithaa government, however, had allowed Sri Lankan cricketers to play IPL matches in Chennai in 2011 and 2012 even after the state Assembly had passed a resolution against Colombo and demanded an economic boycott of the island nation.
Since then, the DMK and the AIADMK have ratcheted up their competitive exploitation of the anti-Sri Lanka sentiments sweeping the state.
Last September, Jayalalithaa had sent back a Sri Lankan football team home and suspended a state official for allowing it to play a friendly match here. Her letter on IPL matches comes close on the heels of an attack on Sri Lankan Buddhist monks in the state.