As the players’ auction for the sixth edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) is round the corner, the showpiece is gradually beginning to creep into the psyche of cricket fans again.
The IPL has by now become like an addictive habit — you may blame it for all the ills afflicting Indian cricket but you can’t really chuck it out of your system.
What may have escaped the notice of cricket fans is the U-turn of Indian cricket board on the issue of allowing Pakistani players to take part in the IPL after a gap of four years.
It was in the last week of December that the IPL governing council quietly issued a diktat to all the franchises not to go for players from Pakistan — despite earlier verbal assurances from the IPL chairman and positive vibes in the wake of the BCCI allowing Sialkot Stallions from that country to take part in the Champions League T-20.
While the general perception seems to be that the decision had come in the wake of the emergency situation in the border, this was not the case in reality.
The border crisis flared up only in the first week of January, leading to the sending back of the five Pakistan players from the Hockey India League (HIL) and the deliberation over safety of the Pakistan women’s team taking part in the Women’s World Cup in India.
However, the decision to snub the Pakistan players filtered as early as December 23, even as the Pakistan team had just set foot on the Indian soil for a resumption of bi-lateral series after nearly five years. No official reason was available on that occasion, while the Indian government said they had no role behind such a decision.
It has hence turned out to be a winter of discontent for the Pakistan players as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has now barred the 26 players initially cleared to take part in the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).
It’s been PCB’s way of getting back at the Bangladesh board, who declined to tour Pakistan at the eleventh hour due to security concerns, but the real losers will be the likes of Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi and Omar Gul.
It’s a pity that several of Pakistan’s cricketers, who are real crowdpullers in this form of cricket, continue to live in the lurch even as a rash of mediocre players receive fat cheques and bask in all the attention in the IPL and now the Bangladesh league.
The other day, the PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf went on record as saying that a possible tour of Pakistan by the Indian team was a bright possibility till the LoC crisis had put paid to their dreams.
One has to take him on face value, but questions are now being asked if the Pakistan board may have been shortchanged by their counterparts in terms of future commitments!