IPL I: They came, they conquered.
IPL II: They got banned, thanks to 26/11.
IPL III: 11 of them invited. None sold. Humiliated.
IPL IV: Nothing changes. Not a single player selected but the ‘Swing Wizard’ gets appointed as KKR’s bowling coach.
IPL V: The ban continues, Wasim Akram continues. But this time comes a shocker. British citizen, Azhar Mahmood plays for Kings XI Punjab. He decides to play in a country which has been constantly rejecting other players from his country of origin.
Five years into the IPL and still the Pakistani players don’t find a berth in T20’s gravy train. Azhar Mahmood announced himself on the brightest stage of T20 cricket by going all out against Zaheer Khan and clearing the ropes handsomely. Although his quickfire 33 went in vain, the six was a slap on the face of the BCCI officials who justify the exclusion of Pakistani players from the Indian Premier League by stating “everything is tied to the resumption of bilateral cricket ties between the two nations.”
Hasn’t PCB been constantly proposing an Indian tour of Pakistan to the BCCI for the majority of last two years? Now, if you keep postponing a tour for that long, with a clearly visible intention of cancelling it, what is the difference between war hawks and sportspeople?
Now this situation begs a question: Who is the loser here? Is it the Pakistani players? The fans of the IPL? Or the game of cricket?
No T20 side can ever be complete without the game’s most explosive striker in modern history, Boom Boom Afridi. Man of the tournament in 2007 World Cup T20 and a crowd puller in Australia’s Big Bash, Shahid Afridi can be an answer to the IPL’s poor ticket sales and decreasing viewership.
If Afridi is brute force, Imran Nazir is all timing. The explosive opener has taken to T20 like a duck to water, playing some of the best knocks of the extinct ICL and the recently concluded BPL. For the pressure situation of death overs, few can match the composure and artistry of Saeed Ajmal. And how can one forget the injury-ridden, wrong-footed Sohail Tanvir; the purple cap holder of the inaugural IPL?
An Umar Gul is every captain’s dream T20 bowler (remember his match winning spell against New Zealand in the 2009 World Cup T20). Abdur Razzaq is probably one of the best allrounders in T20 cricket and can turn a match on its head. Umar Akmal is among the finest of young talents in world cricket now, Rana Naved is known as the ‘yorker guy’ in Australia’s Big Bash. The list goes on.
How do you intend to make IPL the best cricketing league without these names? Why this discrimination?
If you can have an Aleem Dar and an Asad Rauf umpiring in this biased league, if a Shoaib Malik can enjoy the IPL from the stands waving and wearing the colours of Pune Warriors India, if a Wasim Akram can coach KKR and if an Azhar Mahmood can earn over $200,000 from IPL (although his passport says he’s no more a Pakistani), then why can’t some of the best in the world, from the same country, ply their trade and entertain cricket fans in the Indian Premier League?
India’s tour of Pakistan in 2008 is best remembered for Sehwag’s devastating 309 in Multan, but if you fail to remember the scenes, watch any video on YouTube from that series, relive the atmosphere in the stadiums, relive the excitement, pain, anguish, unmatched joy and expressions that only an Indo-Pak cricket match can offer.
Potentially, the IPL can be that platform to watch a Viru v/s Ajmal or an Afridi v/s Zaheer, but for the realisation of that potential, the authorities may have to visit YouTube.
IPL Chairman, Rajeev Shukla says, “I don’t think we should be pessimistic about Indo-Pak bilateral relations but remain optimistic.”
Well Mr. Shukla, that is all we can do.