Never mind the April showers, bring IPL to England, say excited NRIs

March 24th, 2009 - 5:24 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, March 24 (IANS) The cold and rain notwithstanding, leading Britons of Indian origin are ready to roll out the red carpet to the Indian Premier League (IPS) should the cricket tournament choose to play its second season in England.

The prospects of April Showers - the phenomenon of spring rains that routinely ruin cricket matches in England - are reportedly tilting the decision in favour of South Africa as IPL chief Lalit Modi winds up discussions in Johannesburg.

But leaders of the 1.75 million Indian diaspora in Britain who spoke to IANS clearly haven’t given up hope.

“It would be great to have the IPL here,” said Nat Puri, industrialist and president of the Indian Gymkhana sports club in London.

“We have enough major grounds here to give each side a home-ground. And this is England - you don’t need to make them feel at home. They are at home already!

“I’ll try and find a place for the boys to practice if they need a place,” he offered.

Although the British government is yet to comment on the IPL, two Indian-origin MPs belonging to the ruling Labour Party happily joined the chorus of welcome.

“If it comes to England, we will welcome the tournament, and we will watch the matches,” said Virendra Sharma, who represents the west London suburb of Southall, possibly the world’s best-known Indian diaspora neighbourhood.

“IPL would be great for business and tourism and showcase Britain as a safe place,” he said.

“The whole world should be supporting the IPL because it is such a brilliant new phenomenon - it’s bringing the world together,” said an excited Sharma, adding that he would be supporting Kings XI Punjab “since I am from Punjab.”

Keith Vaz, the senior British MP of Indian origin and chairman of the parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee, said while there was “huge disappointment” that India is unable to host the tournament, “we will massively welcome it if it comes here.”

“We too face the threat of global terrorism - no country in the world is immune from it. We have got the Olympic Games in 2012 and my committee is looking into security issues for the Games. The IPL, if it comes here, could well be the biggest thing before the Olympics and it could be a possible example how we might approach security in the Olympics,” Vaz added.

“Security will be a big issue and will test the imagination and resources of our police,” he added.

Ghulam Noon, the so-called Curry King for his food empire of Noon Products, however, criticised the Indian authorities for allowing the IPL to move out for the second season.

“Of course, we will welcome it if it comes here, because it will rejuvenate English cricket, but how is it that India with its huge security apparatus cannot protect the 100-odd IPL players? Life cannot stop just because of elections,” said Noon, who was caught in the terrorist attack on Taj hotel in Mumbai last November.

Being from Rajasthan, Noon said he will be supporting the Rajasthan Royals, the reigning IPL champs.

Aadya Shukla, a graduate student who is president of the Oxford University’s Indian Society, said she would love to have some of the cricketers over at Oxford to play a charity match.

“We are disappointed it’s not being held in India, but if it’s just for one season, we can live with it.”

Not only Indians, but other South Asian lovers of cricket are expected to line up for tickets if the IPL comes to England.

Murad Qureshi, a Labour member of the London Assembly - a watchdog for the British capital - said London was best suited to support “this key celebration in the world of cricket.”

“This would also play a significant part in relieving some of the economic pressures on London’s tourist industry, fill up hotel places, increase restaurant bookings and swell visits to other exciting destinations,” he said.

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