IPL bandwagon to roll out of India (Roundup)

March 22nd, 2009 - 10:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Mumbai/New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) The Indian Premier League (IPL) was Sunday shifted to the foreign shores because of clash of dates with general elections in the country.
The move came as a shock for fans across the nation and raised the political pitch with the main opposition party holding the central government responsible for the decision.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) took the decision at an emergency meeting after days of speculation about the second edition of the tournament that is set to take place April 10 to May 24.

The home ministry had put the ball in state governments’ court after the IPL dates clashed with the Lok Sabha polls slated April 16 to May 13. The votes will be counted May 16.

The BCCI frantically changed the IPL schedule thrice to meet security concerns and eventually decided to move it outside India after the Maharashtra government, where a chunk of the matches were to be held, declared its inability to provide security during the elections.

As a result, BCCI president Shashank Manohar said the board was forced to shift the Twenty20 tournament outside India.

“Earlier, the governments of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh gave their consent to hold IPL matches. But later they reverted from their stance.”

“We have been forced to move IPL outside India because of the attitude of the government, especially the Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh governments,” Manohar said.

Security for the IPL became a major issue after Mumbai terror attacks that killed over 170 people in November 2008 and after terrorists audaciously attacked Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore in March.

According to the government, the police and paramilitary forces would be bogged down during the five-phase Lok Sabha polls.

There is no word on the new venue yet, but Cricket South Africa and England and Wales Cricket Board have confirmed the BCCI has approached both to explore if the tournament could be held in England or South Africa.

There would be no changes in the timings and format of the tournament irrespective of where they are played. The matches were originally to take place at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. IST.

“We are exploring various options in England, South Africa and the UAE. We will take a decision by Monday evening,” IPL commissioner Lalit Modi said.

“Unfortunately, we could not hold it in India because of the election issues. We had to take into account the need for continuity in holding the tournament. We could not have found other dates in the international calendar.” he added.

The IPL team owners backed the move.

“We will follow what the IPL and the BCCI decide. All the franchise owners have decided to stick together and see it through,” Bollywood actor Shah Rukh, who owns Kolkata Knight Riders, said after a meeting of the eight team owners with Modi Sunday.

“The elections are important for the country. It’s a bigger issue than the IPL. We have tried to resolve the problem. The picture will be clear in the next five to seven days,” he said.

Mumbai Indians co-owner Nita Ambani said the IPL has assured the franchisees that they will not suffer any losses if the Twenty20 tournament is held outside the country.

“Shifting IPL out of India was the last resort for us but we did not want to stop IPL from taking place this year. IPL has assured us that there won’t be any losses,” she said.

Kings XI Punjab co-owner Preity Zinta, too, welcomed the decision.

“Elections are number one priority and we had to take it into consideration. We want to have this tournament to happen too, so this is a good decision as every fan will still get to see it from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” she said.

“The timings will be the same so the Indian viewers will not suffer. We will follow whatever the BCCI and IPL will ask us to do,” she added.

Rajasthan Royals co-owner Shilpa Shetty, though disappointed at the news, also followed suit and backed the decision to shift the tournament.

“I am in London at the moment and the news that we received at the owners’ conference is disappointing not just for the franchisees but also all the Indian cricket fans, given the huge anticipation and excitement that exists for the IPL in India,” Shetty said.

“However, if the choice is no tournament, or the tournament in another country, then we clearly prefer the latter. The locations and options presented are all viable, and we are working closely with the IPL, as they formulate a decision over the next 24 hours,” she explained.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticised the Indian government for its failure to provide security to the IPL.

“The government must seriously reconsider … and adopt a more responsible stand in national interest,” said BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley.

Jaitley, who is also president of the Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA), said the decision to shift the hugely popular Twenty20 tournament would put India on par with countries like Pakistan that are deemed unsafe for international sporting events.

“India is safe, that must be the stand of the government.”

“A domestic tournament has to be shifted to foreign soil? It was always said Pakistan is an unsafe country. This non-cooperation of the central government is like clubbing India (with Pakistan).”

Cricket fans felt the shift would take the sheen off the tournament, especially for the youngsters, who were looking forward to the cricketing extravaganza after their annual school and board exams.

“Today’s decision has come as a shock. In all my excitement, I had even applied for my leave at work! Now of course, it will be a different story,” said Sourav Dey, a software engineer working in Delhi.

Shakshi Misra, a big IPL fan, went on to ask: “Why keep calling it the Indian Premier League now that it will not be held in India? And the worse thing is that politicians are now making it a poll issue! Let the game be, please!”.

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