February 19, 2010

Cricket in the time of terror

Security threats are a reality for Indian sporting events today. The IPL must pull through and emerge successful for the sake of the fans

Organisers of two major sporting events in India are currently having to live up to the standards expected of them. It is a by-product of building a reputation, for that then becomes the benchmark. Accordingly the IPL is grappling with a variety of issues, from threats of disruption to threats to life. In its first two years, the IPL set standards of excellence in organisation and now it must match those or risk creating disillusionment.

At the other end, the organisers of the Commonwealth Games set the performance bar as low as possible; so low in fact that it is difficult to slip under it. But since reputations must be defended, they periodically accomplish even this daunting task. In the melee that will inevitably result, hopefully they will get by, but they are testing the just-in-time principle that is so dear to management gurus.

Sadly, however, India, and people dealing with India, must realise that we live increasingly in an environment of uncertainty. The English Premier League knows when Manchester United will play Chelsea in the 2010-11 season. They don't realise how blessed they are to be able to do that. Twenty-two days before the IPL opener there could still be changes to the schedule as political turmoil and the inevitable whiff of terrorism come calling. It is an unhappy situation and it calls for different approaches.

That is why we in India must not just budget for chaos but learn to revel in it. As the air grows more sinister, as forces of evil group together in the name of religion and freedom, we have to think on our feet. It is an unhappy but inevitable way of life, and that is why the IPL needs to have, not just a Plan B but a Plan C and a Plan D. And that is where in their little existence - remember the IPL is still but a baby - they have been so good. You might get the feeling that they are autocratic, audacious, even arrogant, but sometimes you need to drive your way through chaos; you cannot get stuck in it.

It might be Telangana today, Shiv Sena yesterday and tomorrow, but those are minor impediments. They might throw stones, disrupt traffic; at worst, dig up a pitch. Their danger does not extend too much further because all they seek is political mileage (as an aside, it must be a strange situation where disruption is seen as a way to earn mileage). But they will not maim or kill innocent people, they will not use rocket launchers or set off bombs. The danger to the IPL does not come from them. You have to plan for them, walk a tightrope, even give them the nuisance value they crave, but the enemy is elsewhere. If part of the organisation of a major event involves protecting lives, the world is grim. And yet the IPL and the Commonwealth Games must survive in this atmosphere (though the organisers of the Games create their own chaos rather than wait for someone else to deliver it).

In spite of it all, sport needs to exist, because it is one of the few things that brings a smile through honest efforts; whether it is football in Africa, cricket in Afghanistan, or indeed, the IPL in India

In spite of it all, sport needs to exist, to flourish because it is one of the few things that brings a smile through honest efforts; whether it is football in Africa, cricket in Afghanistan. Or indeed, the IPL in India, which needs to succeed because a consumer-centric, privately driven enterprise has to be seen to be working. It is no different from the English premiership, and yet, strangely, in spite of its dubious owners, the EPL is applauded and the IPL thumbed down. Eventually the EPL delivers great entertainment, even if John Terry is in the news more for what he did with his former colleague's former partner than for his prowess in Chelsea's defence.

The IPL seeks to entertain, too, and that is why it needs to be strong. Cricket must evolve and the IPL, and the Indian consumer, is at the heart of this evolution. I must admit there are aspects to the IPL I disagree with. The commercial intrusion through "strategy" breaks and different nomenclature for boundaries for example. But eventually it brings a smile. I hope it is not disrupted. I hope no sport is disrupted, for there is no greater feel-good factor in the world we are in, and are heading into.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • K on February 22, 2010, 22:19 GMT

    Thanks Harsha. Whether any foreign cricketers comes or not. IPL has to happen and we Indian will enjoy & support. We will be happy to watch our Dravid, Ganguly, Sachin, Dhoni, Yuvraj.....and all the young cricketers....

  • Arif on February 22, 2010, 16:00 GMT

    shiv sina and other terrorist organisations in india are extremely dangerous and they have already given threats. blast in pune is a living proof. we should think with our mind and not hearts and its better to move out cricket events away to australia. i would love to see bouncy pithces instead of dead subcontinent pitches.

  • S on February 22, 2010, 14:39 GMT

    This is totally off the mark, yes we can plan for the unplannable but to condone not informing people of what arrangements are being made to protect them is totally irrational.

    IPL has to face these threats -that is a reality, but why should the participants not know what is being done to ensure their safety?

  • Pramod on February 22, 2010, 13:48 GMT

    Some comments are crazy. one talking abt 100s freedom movement I do not think he/she knows India. Everyone in India vote for govt including kashmir last turn out was 55%. One Paki dont like Indians and saying the threat are real...irony is, this freak is threatening from Pak and paki is saying threat is real. Historically there had been a successful attack in India after warning...pune bast was a desparate attempt as they were not able to hit the osho ashram and Jews place

    These paki will never change hope and will reach stone age gradually

  • Concept 3 on February 22, 2010, 11:58 GMT

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    I have a new concept on this nice game, that will help boost its popularity to a much higher level and drastically change its dimensions. I would like to be assured that my copyright will be ensured and my idea will reach to the right place. Hoping for your co-operation on this case, Prabin basantaprabin@gmail.com

  • sunny on February 22, 2010, 10:46 GMT

    @westaustralian:thank you sir for you nice comments.so very kind of you.

  • Dummy4 on February 21, 2010, 20:03 GMT

    @invincible-fighter,"how biased mr.harsha..i wonder if the same kind of threats were given to a tournament being organised in pakistan what would have been your take"... Well, you still dont understand the situation. If the same kind of threat given to any event, let alone a 'high profile cricket tournament' in Pakistan, it would have been called off hands down...Thats the differnce between Indian and Pakistani Current affairs, let alone the history!

    @U.A.1985,"How many so called "developed" nations in the world are facing troubles with 100s of freedoms movements? Only 1.... Astonished by figures?"...Can you post any facts on this...India do not even have 100 Provinces and I do not know of general public involved in freedom struggle(in Kashmir and the North-East) other than a bunch of Cave Dwelling Terrorists. And I dont think you know of a country called China which has forcibly acquired a lot of real estate along its periphery.

  • Umair on February 21, 2010, 8:49 GMT


    " India is most developed"

    How many so called "developed" nations in the world are facing troubles with 100s of freedoms movements? Only 1....

    Astonished by figures? It was very easy to assume thing, right!!

  • Arif on February 21, 2010, 6:38 GMT

    I do respect harsha article as he is an indian. But i will suggest all international cricketers to think twice in the wake of these threats happening. We just saw a big bomb blast in pune which means the threats are extremely real.

  • Harsh on February 21, 2010, 4:12 GMT

    I had a feeling that my two long paragraphs won't be published, may be it was just for Mr. Bhogle to think about, but all i wanted to say in simple word. I am really tired of hearing threats like this whenever sports are being played. I liked only one threat when my Dad used to warn me that he is not going to allow me to play in evening if i don't finish my home-work (my teen age days) :P i can bear that threat, but not these pointless one. Peace

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