January 22, 2010

No conspiracy against Pakistan

The times we live in are to blame for the IPL's rejection of Pakistani players. Also: why the deal with Google is a landmark
94

There was a time not so long ago when your address defined which cricket matches you could see. As kids growing up in Hyderabad we were thankful for what we got; a three-day game sometimes, when to our great joy our school gave us a holiday to be able to go and watch. You had the radio, of course, but as I later discovered, when a commentator knows his audience cannot watch what he is describing, he takes the odd liberty!

Then television arrived and while that opened up a beautiful new world for us cricket watchers, you could only see games that were beamed into your country. Sometimes you only got the highlights but you were thankful for that. Our world was still bounded; what we saw was still controlled by someone else. Luckily, satellite television arrived and you could watch almost everything -provided, of course, you had the time. One constraint had been removed.

At the time we thought it was as good as it got. But this week I heard something that's got me all excited because it makes the viewer king, a notion that was ingrained in me when I began a career in broadcasting.

What the IPL-Google deal does is make geographical boundaries irrelevant in the area of live sport. So my classmate in Japan, who was starved of his regular fix, can now watch a game in real time as long as he has a workable broadband line - a problem that, unlike me, he doesn't need to worry about.

It gets better. He can now access an online library free of cost. I recognised the value of that when I searched for the amazing catch Manish Pandey took in the final of the Ranji Trophy (by the way, another example of a good pitch producing a good match). It was worth the search.

But far beyond allowing people to watch cricket free of cost, I think it will also lead to a democratisation of talent. If you are good, you can now prove it.

My classmate in Japan, who was starved of his regular fix, can now watch a game in real time as long as he has a workable broadband line - a problem that, unlike me, he doesn't need to worry about

Let me explain. When I was growing up, there was the sub-editor in a newspaper who could, if he chose to, deny you the opportunity of appearing in print. And if he was benevolent, he would let you through, but he could rewrite your article, even chop it and make it look quite different from what it was intended to be. The blog changed that; it gave talent the space it needed. You may not have had the reach but at least you had an outlet. It was empowering.

You can now do that with television content. With an online library you can edit footage, store it in the manner you want and show that you can be smarter than the guy who edits for television. Better still, you can mute the commentary and put on your own and judge for yourself whether you are indeed better than the guys on television you are stuck with. It won't surprise me at all if that does indeed happen, since some of the best analysis I have read on cricket comes from blogs intelligent people write. It is a revolution and it is round the corner.

The announcement came a day after the IPL franchises chose to ignore cricketers from Pakistan. I was looking forward to watching some fine young men in action and these cricketers have a right to feel done in. The key question, though, is: done in by whom? The franchises have a right to select the team they want, even if it is not the best possible, because they have to wear many hats. They cannot alienate fans, they don't want to create a security issue, and they do not want any more uncertainty - part of the reason some fine Australian cricketers were turned down too.

I fear these players are being done in by the cage we are imprisoned in. We live in times of violence and hatred; there are many people who seek peace but equally some who seek to deny us what we thought was given. Sport cannot exist in isolation, cannot fly free from this cage of reality. We would love the two to be separated but that has never happened. In times of peace, or relative peace, we could produce the pathbreaking tours of 2004 and 2006. Now we are all pawns in the drama our subcontinent is enacting and the cricketers are merely more visible pawns. The conspiracy that Abdul Razzaq talks about is the reality of our times. The IPL will be poorer for the absence of some extraordinarily gifted cricketers, but this is just another victory for those that infect us with hatred. To believe there is a conspiracy against cricketers from Pakistan is wrong. It is the times we live in.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Super-Sports.co.uk on January 22, 2010, 12:22 GMT

    From a cricketing point of view, why would a franchise not want a player of Afridi's calibre in their team? Infact, players to name a few, Tanvir, Gul, who have proven to be match winners not picked in any teams? I think that the IPL organisers need to stay away from Politics and concentrate on picking a team which can deliver and win the tournament.

    Tomorrow it might be another nation with whom ties have been jeopordised, so when it comes down to the IPL acution, will franchises bid for them?

  • NDakota on January 22, 2010, 12:20 GMT

    Harsha, I strongly disagree with you. The real problem is about treatment given to Pakistan players by the respective franchises and IPL. Why did the IPL and fracnhises included these playes for the auction if no one is ineterested in them ??? As far as I know, at least one nomination from a franchise is needed for a player to be included in the auction. That's where the problem lies. I am Indian, but I definitely beleive there's some conspiracy mastermined my Lalit Modi and franchise owners to elude pakistani's from IPL. This act by the IPL team cannot be termed as a problem with the times we live in !!!!!. Shame on you harsha that you have ovellooked this fact in your article

  • VivaVizag on January 22, 2010, 12:18 GMT

    If there is a 'conspiracy', it is actually on the part of individuals who have difficulty comprehending how market economics and corporations operate. There are 11 openings and 66 players, and the math suggests 80% can't make the cut. Also, a player is bought by the franchise with a view that he will add value to the brand (ex: Pietersen and Royal Challengers) and the investment on him is recouped in the long run. Unfortunately, after 26/11, the fact is Pakistanis are the least marketable faces in India. So instead of getting overly sentimental, one needs to apply some rational thought process. Why should anyone risk that huge money again on Afridi after IPL-1 when Boycott's grandmother would have done better than him!

  • vinitvishal on January 22, 2010, 12:04 GMT

    To all the Pakistan Team supporter , I have one thing to say. Inspite of being an Indian, I support Pakistan when they play against a neutral country.And i am sure most of Indians will do the same and vice versa . But the issue here is beyond supporting a team or players. After the 26/11 Attacks , Many regional parties as well as public sentiment is highly against Pakistan. Over that a continuous threat of another similar terrorist attack (directly or indirectly linked to Pakistan ) is looming over India. Considering these facts or as Harsha says "It is the times we live in" , safety of Pakistani player in India cannot be guaranteed . God forbid , if while IPL 3 or common wealth games witness another similar attack , public anguish will first outburst on Pakistani player and the franchise playing them. So , I request everyone Including Indian & Pakistani supporters to refrain from making it a political issue and bitter our already complicated relationship.

  • VivaVizag on January 22, 2010, 12:03 GMT

    If there is a 'conspiracy', it is actually on the part of individuals who have difficulty comprehending how market economics and corporations operate. There are 11 openings and 66 players, and the math suggests 80% can't make the cut. Also, a player is bought by the franchise with a view that he will add value to the brand (ex: Pietersen and Royal Challengers) and the investment on him is recouped in the long run. Unfortunately, after 26/11, the fact is Pakistanis are the least marketable faces in India. So instead of getting overly sentimental, one needs to apply some rational thought process. Why should anyone risk that huge money again on Afridi after IPL-1 when Boycott's grandmother would have done better than him!

  • VivaVizag on January 22, 2010, 12:02 GMT

    If there is a 'conspiracy', it is actually on the part of individuals who have difficulty comprehending how market economics and corporations operate. There are 11 openings and 66 players, and the math suggests 80% can't make the cut. Also, a player is bought by the franchise with a view that he will add value to the brand (ex: Pietersen and Royal Challengers) and the investment on him is recouped in the long run. Unfortunately, after 26/11, the fact is Pakistanis are the least marketable faces in India. So instead of getting overly sentimental, one needs to apply some rational thought process. Why should anyone risk that huge money again on Afridi after IPL-1 when Boycott's grandmother would have done better than him!

  • Patriot_Pakistani on January 22, 2010, 11:58 GMT

    I can see most of the people already supporting Pakistan players and smelling conspiracy in theri exclusion. Let's see what BCCI and Lalit Modi do when time comes for Pakistani domestic T20 champs inclusion in the next Champions League....no franchises will be involved there...their 'will' to include Pakistan will surely be tested!!

  • JayK on January 22, 2010, 11:58 GMT

    Jay, from India. It is very disappointing and absolutely irritating that the Pakistani players are not playing this time in the IPL, and people are trying to rationalise corporate whims. World Champions or not, the individual talent that Pakistani players like Afridi, Gul, and these days Aamer, or Umar possess is a sheer joy to watch. And IPL 2010 would be poorer without them, and we would be missing out.

    Agreed, these teams are owned by corporates and they decide whom to take. But please don't forget that corporates use City names to get fans. Who would have supported Ambani sans Mumbai, or ShahRukh without Kolkata? So, they should also pay the spectators and Pak players some respect, and not just team up and exclude them.

    However, I think, confusing some corporate guys vanities with the nation, and blaming India for everything is absolutely not right from the Pakistan point of view. just like you, we also love watching your cricketers play, and are feeling equally bad.

  • 777aditya on January 22, 2010, 11:57 GMT

    Secondly, business-wise its a false ploy by IPL as it will lose on viewership in Pakistan - I dont really think any Pak TV will switch on to watch IPL matches - stupid decision really by IPL.

  • 777aditya on January 22, 2010, 11:53 GMT

    PLEASE ALLOW PAK PLAYERS TO PLAY IN INDIA

    I am an ardent fan of Indian cricket, but it feels rather sad to hear the note of resignation in Harsha's otherwise cheerful words. I think the biggest loser is cricket if proven performers like Afridi, Razzaq, Ameer, Asif, Akmal brothers, Tanveer, Rana, Malik, Butt, Farhat, and a host of other super-talented Pakistani players dont get to play IPL. This surely is no "peace demonstration" by the Indian Government by not allowing such talented players to display their skills. IPL is certainly a lot poorer without the effervescent presence of India's traditional rivals. The first edition was a hit because Pak players were allowed. The second was a damp squib as IPL was not played at home in India and again due to the abscence of Pak players. I think IPL will surely die a premature death if it continues with its naive exclusiveness.

  • No featured comments at the moment.