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February 2, 2009
Pakistan has barred its players from participating in the IPL after its foreign ministry deemed it was unsafe for the cricketers to travel to India in the wake of the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
"We have been informed by the foreign ministry today that the situation is not conducive for Pakistan cricketers to travel to India," sports minister Aftab Jilani told the Associated Press. The sports ministry had last week given clearance to the players to participate in the Indian Twenty20 league, while informing them that their security would be their own and their IPL franchise's responsibility.
"We [the sports ministry] had given the NOC, but the final decision was up to the government," Jilani said. "Ever since these attacks [in Mumbai] the situation has got tense and even Pakistani artists are facing problems in India."
Pakistan's top players, including Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir and Umar Gul, are contracted to various franchises in the league. "All the players who are already signed up with the IPL teams or those who were due to take part in the players auction have been declined permission," Saleem Altaf, the PCB chief executive, told PTI. Altaf said an email had been sent to the IPL about the ministry's decision.
With bilateral relations between the neighbours at a low, franchises had indicated they might trade their Pakistan players during the IPL's one-month-long trading window, which closed last month. No Pakistan players, though, were sold during the window. However, if they are unable to participate in this year's tournament due to government restrictions, they will have to forego their salaries for this season.
Five players - Yasir Hameed, Yasir Arafat, Asim Kamal, Danish Kaneria and Mohammad Hafeez - had also been included in the IPL's list for the auction before the second season, scheduled for February 6. Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, said their names will be withdrawn. "The Pakistan government has decided to inform us, through the Pakistan Cricket Board, no Pakistan player will be allowed to play in this year's IPL," Modi said. "There were five players on the [auction] list but we have removed them."
The two franchises most affected by the absence of Pakistan players will be Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals - both have three on their rosters. Joy Bhattacharya, Kolkata's team director, said they will seek more options from the IPL to counter the development. Bhattacharya said they had already accounted the limited availiability of Pakistan players due to the scheduled ODI series against Australia between April 20 and May 10.
"It impacts very [us] much as we will not have Umar Gul, a fine cricketer," he said. "Even then our strategy for the auction has already been thought of keeping in mind any development like this. While this was not a reality a few days ago it is out in the open now. So the IPL will have to offer options."
The IPL, though, has already provided a possible alternative for the franchises. Teams will be allowed to sign players unsold at the upcoming auction as replacements for those who won't be available for the entire season this year. Also, the amount spent on them will not count towards the franchise's US$2 million cap on player purchases at the auction.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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