Politics March 22, 2009

IPL must support Pakistan's cricketers

The possibility of the IPL moving offshore brings sadness and perhaps opportunity. Cricket is now so cowed by fear of terrorism that three South Asian nations have had key tournaments disrupted within weeks of the Lahore attacks. While a contest between Pakistan and Bangladesh would have struggled to set the pulse racing, the Indian Premier League managed to enthrall even the most skeptical of cricket fans. Much of that fascination was created by the passion of India's cricket fans, the biggest losers if the tournament is relocated.

The opportunities, however, carry their own fascination - especially for Pakistan cricket fans. Importantly, a successful offshore IPL will ease Pakistan's transition to a team of globetrotters. Furthermore, the PCB and IPL could consider reinstating Pakistan's cricketers if the tournament is outside India. Is that too much too ask? Aren't all nations victims of terrorism? Why should Pakistan's players be penalised and prevented from participating in a purportedly global tournament? Don't Pakistan's cricketers require support from the international cricket community to help competitive international cricket to survive in Pakistan?

The IPL has an opportunity to show that cricket has the power to repair damaged national relationships, and that it will not be cowed by terrorism. Indeed, becoming the premier world competition is not simply a matter of financial muscle, it is also a matter of leading by impeccable example.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here