Drop Chennai as IPL 6 venue

Remember Hyderabad in 2010?

Cricket might have to take a backseat with the ongoing political protests against Sri Lanka.

Watching the top-order Australian batsmen throw their wickets away at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Friday, one wondered if this was some kind of a rehearsal for the Indian Premier League, beginning April 3.

Besides lack of application and poor technique, there was plenty of comedy on view from stand-in skipper Shane Watson downwards. Surely, this is not what batting in Test cricket is all about.

In a matter of a few days, the India-Australia series will be over and the focus will shift to the high-octane IPL. What happened in the Test series, as also how Sachin Tendulkar struggled once again to score runs, may well be forgotten.

While the big bosses who run the IPL show will be happy that they have a new sponsor in Pepsi, the bigger worry is about the fate of the Sri Lankan players’ tryst with Chennai.

ALSO SEE: When cricket becomes a political game

Given the political turmoil over Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa making it clear that the Lankan players cannot play at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, there is serious cause for concern. She has made her point clear before as well, when she said Lankans cannot compete in the Asian athletics championship in the Tamil Nadu capital.

Some of the bigwigs within the Indian cricket board (BCCI) have tried to sell stories as to how the IPL franchises have to juggle their squads so that Lankan players do not play in Chennai.

If one looks through the team lists, there are 13 Sri Lankans associated with various franchises in the IPL. Of these, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are captains of Delhi Daredevils and SunRisers Hyderabad respectively.

It is not as if the Sri Lankan players who are part of the IPL are spent forces. The reality is each franchise is going to be hit by this mix-and-match of having to drop Lankan players whenever they play at the Chennai Super Kings’ home ground.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s own team has two Sri Lankans in Akila Dananjaya and Nuwan Kulasekara, so they will also have to strategise.

This is indeed a piquant situation which has cropped up vis-a-vis the Sri Lankan players’ participation in the IPL. In recent months, if sport has been hit in India because of a particular nationality, it was that of the Pakistanis.

Forget the IPL, even in other games like hockey, there is a new problem as the Indian government does not give permission for Pakistanis to play in India.

Ideally, in a tournament like the IPL, where huge money is spent by each franchise on players and preparation, the teams should have the best pool of talent to pick from. If there is a restriction that they cannot pick Lankans in Chennai, it is unfair to them.

So what is the way out of this mess? Three years ago, when there was trouble in Hyderabad and other cities in Andhra Pradesh because of the Telangana issue, the Deccan Chargers were forced to shift all their home matches to the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai, the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack and the VCA Stadium in Nagpur.

Agreed, cricket fans in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam were deprived of IPL action, but the bigger issue was the safety of the players and smooth conduct of the tournament.

These are testing times for BCCI big boss N Srinivasan.

While his team Chennai Super Kings has done extremely well in previous editions of the IPL, he would want to ensure they play in Chennai. As of now, the other teams haven’t said anything about not wanting to play in Chennai because of the Sri Lanka issue. If a level-playing field has to be guaranteed, I would suggest Chennai Super Kings adopt a new base like the DY Patil Stadium so that there is no problem in all matches being played in a congenial atmosphere.

While one does feel bad for Chennai’s knowledgeable cricket fans, when the state government makes it clear that Sri Lankans cannot play sport there, it has to be heard.

Once the Test series is over, the focus will shift to the IPL. What will be of particular interest is how the IPL teams deal with Srinivasan on this burning issue, which has to be addressed urgently.

If moving Deccan Chargers matches out of Hyderabad is taken as an example, then there is every reason to believe IPL matches in Chennai will be hit.

Then again, there is a big difference between how state cricket units deal with the BCCI and how IPL team owners interact with Srinivasan and IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla. For example, last year, when Kolkata Knight Riders owner Shah Rukh Khan was involved in a scrap with the Mumbai Cricket Association officials, it became very ugly.

Hopefully, the sixth edition of the IPL starting early next month will be glitch-free. The sooner the Lankan issue is resolved the better it will be for the non-stop slam-bang cricket that the IPL is!

(TAG: CYCSPL)

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