India should have been more inclusive
The IPL's auction hammer has hit Pakistan badly. Like a jilted lover, the cricket fan is heartbroken, confused and angry. The question he asks is 'How could the Twenty20 champions not have a buyer?' The league has a major presence in Pakistan, and the country's only sports channel beams the games live. Today, however, the mood has changed.
The other great import, Hindi cinema, has also come under pressure. The sports ministry and parliament have got the knives out, terming the selection snub as a great Indian conspiracy to insult the nation and belittle the status of its cricketers. The players seem to be on the same page as the politicians and the media. This is not cricket, they say. All hell has broken loose.
While it is quite possible that the inclusion of Pakistani cricketers would have divided Indian opinion, and invited controversy for the IPL, care should have been taken in easing them out of action. The task, though, could not have been easy.
The IPL was dealing with global stars with an elephantine ego, coming from a neighbourhood very sensitive to the decisions taken by either party. The best way out of such a volatile situation is to play with a straight bat, take a decision in advance and not when the crescendo has built up. The assurances of selection and the clearances given to them by the Pakistan government to participate in the tournament gave rise to false hopes among the fans and the media. The subsequent process of elimination was seen by the public as political and undignified.
However, there exists another school of thought in Pakistan which has criticised the players for displaying their keenness to play in the IPL, almost to the point of begging by auctioning themselves, knowing fully well the sentiment against Pakistan in India. Greed could have led to this desperation to participate in the tournament and if the players now think their dignity has been compromised, they have themselves to blame.
India are a cricket powerhouse, the international policeman of the game. Nothing moves without their consent. With status and stardom comes responsibility. India should have been more inclusive in this regard, and fiercely fought the case of Pakistan cricketers. This would have produced a healthy debate, perhaps controversy too, but in a more graceful fashion. But the IPL remains India-centric, and all decisions are made in keeping with Indian interests. Some would argue that the IPL, being an Indian league, is but natural to think Indian first. By all means, but rulers are remembered for thinking big.
Ramiz Raja is a former Pakistan captain and commentator