Also See: In Pics- When cricket becomes a political game
Mumbai: After football and athletics, it is cricket's turn to face the heat in Chennai. The participation of Sri Lankan players is in doubt for the Chennai matches of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
It's the consequence of swelling public opinion in Tamil Nadu in protest over the alleged war crimes against Tamils by the Sri Lankan army during the civil war a few years ago.
The Chennai Super Kings (CSK), who have two Sri Lankan players in their squad, will be powerless against the state government's orders.
Even though chief minister, Jayalalithaa, is yet to issue a diktat over the IPL, she has made her opinion clear that she won't allow the participation of any Sri Lankan players in her state.
As a result, the Asian Athletics Championship, to be held in Chennai from July 3-7, had to be cancelled after the chief minister refused to host the Sri Lankan athletes.
Last year, friendly football matches involving a Sri Lankan side were cancelled at the chief minister's behest.
With all political parties in the state united in their stand, there is little chance of Sri Lankan players being allowed to play at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
It means not only the home team, CSK, but the other IPL teams might also be affected as they will have to play without their Lankan players in their away matches at Chennai.
This creates a situation similar to the one faced in the Hockey India League while dealing with political protests against the Pakistan players' participation in Mumbai and Delhi. Ultimately, it led to the withdrawal of all the Pakistan players from the event.
In IPL too, players from Pakistan are barred for political reasons.
The uncertainty over the team combination for every match at a particular venue will create too much of a situation for the teams, particularly when the venue is scheduled to host two play-off games as well.
Along with the Australians, the Sri Lankans are the biggest draw in the IPL. In fact, the Delhi Daredevils are captained by Lankan stalwart Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara is the prime candidate to captain the Hyderabad franchise, Sunrisers.
Onus on state Govt
KS Viswanathan, a senior official of India Cements, the company which owns the Super Kings, said the decision lies with the state government whether the Lankan players will be allowed to turn out for the games.
"We have written a letter and are waiting for a clarification from the state government and commissioner of police," said Viswanathan, who is also the secretary of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.
"If the government doesn't give us permission, then we will not be able to host the Sri Lankan players in Chennai," Viswanathan told the Hindustan Times, adding the letter was part of the usual procedure to inform the government about the matches and state the security requirement.
The Chidambaram Stadium is scheduled to host 10 matches of the IPL, including the first qualifier and eliminator. In total, there are 13 Sri Lankan players in the league. The Kings XI Punjab are the only team without a Sri Lankan player in their team sheet.
Akila Dhananjaya and Nuwan Kulasekara are the two Lankan players in the CSK team.
In the last three days, two Sri Lankan monks were attacked in separate incidents in Tamil Nadu causing public protests in Colombo.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.