But let's backtrack. It would do well to remember that the Pakistan T20 team is the reigning World Champions and the #1 ranked team on the planet. Forget about proper cricket, like Test and even one-day, as far as the T20 format is concerned, we have the players everyone wants to see. Game-changing short format players like Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Kamran Akmal and Rana Naveed, to say nothing of explosive upcoming talents such as Umar Akmal and Mohammad Aamer that have drawn praise from every commentator in the world. So what happens when they are put up for auction at the IPL? No bids. Nada. Not for a single one out of 11 Pakistani players up for grabs.
Shahid Afridi: "The best T20 player" not good enough for IPL
A bit strange? You think? Remember these are the same "franchises" that were falling over themselves two years ago for prima donnas like Shoaib Akhtar (Kolkata Knight Riders) and even relying heavily on workhorses like Sohail Tanveer (Rajasthan Royals). Yes, the recession has hit even the IPL and only 11 of the 66 players on offer were signed up, but compare the players on offer from Pakistan with the players actually signed up:
- Kieron Pollard (WIS) to Mumbai Indians for 750,000 dollars
- Shane Bond (NZL) to Kolkata Knight Riders for 750,000 dollars
- Kemar Roach (WIS) to Deccan Chargers for 720,000 dollars
- Wayne Parnell (RSA) to Delhi Daredevils for 610,000 dollars
- Mohammad Kaif (IND) to Kings XI Punjab for 250,000 dollars.
- Eoin Morgan (ENG) to Bangalore Royal Challengers for 220,000 dollars
- Damien Martyn (AUS) to Rajasthan Royals for 100,000 dollars
- Justin Kemp (RSA) to Chennai Super Kings for 100,000 dollars
- Thissara Perera (SRI) to Chennai Super Kings for 50,000 dollars
- Adam Voges (AUS) to Rajasthan Royals for 50,000 dollars
- Yusuf Abdulla (RSA) to Kings XI Punjab for 50,000 dollars.
Aside from three or perhaps four, the others are either retired, semi-retired, or relative unknowns. To add insult to injury, this is how IPL Slimebag-in-Chief Lalit Modi explains the lack of a single bid for Pakistani players:
"There were so many players left out in the auction and each team had its own strategy. I have no reason to believe there could be any other reason," Modi said. "Availability of the players was a key issue with the franchisees without doubt," he said.
Oh come on! Strategy? Availability? No other reason? At least admit that you told the team owners that they would pick Pakistani players at their own risk because the Indian government might not give them clearance at the last minute. I'd rather have your bigotry than your doublespeak!
Lalit Modi: slimebag extraordinaire
But here's what I really think about this whole sordid business: it may be, unintentionally, the best thing to happen to Pakistan cricket. For one, it may get our stupid, stupid cricketers mind off the money-making T20 format and let them focus on getting their cricketing basics sorted out. Secondly, it may wake up the sleeping Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) into setting its own house in order and stop relying on tournaments like IPL for reflected glory. (Wishful thinking, I know, but what's the harm in hoping for miracles?) And finally, I think the under-performing and overpaid Pakistani cricketers really do not deserve a high after their crap performances Down Under.
As for Modi and his double-speaking compatriots, I hope they get the IPL they deserve. They've probably lost out on most Australians thanks to Bal Thackeray's threats. Most of the better English players have stayed away because of other cricketing commitments. By excluding Pakistani stars in this way - a decision that is sure to haunt them politically - the IPL may well end up with viewership like any other domestic tournament. I guess Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty will really have their work cut out for them.
The question remains, however, will Geo Super back out of broadcasting a tournament that has made Pakistanis so pissed off?
Actually, this should have been part of what I wrote earlier, since it was basically why I referenced Am(a)n Ki Asha in the beginning, and I have been reminded of the need to clarify this after a comment in the responses. (What can I say? It was late and I was pissed off AND sleepy...)
Basically, what has pissed me off the most about the Indian treatment of Pakistani cricketers is precisely the fact that it has probably strengthened the hands of the hyper-nationalist nutters on both sides and that an excellent opportunity to move things along on the path to normalization of relations between India and Pakistan has been squandered. The disdainful treatment meted out to Shahid Afridi et al will reinforce the opinion in Pakistan that the Indians are out to humiliate and isolate Pakistan any which way they can and that the Indian establishment is not really serious about even rebuilding cordial relations, leave alone dealing with outstanding issues like Kashmir, water etc. Liberal Indians may dispute this but that is how things will be perceived in Pakistan. And the only ones to benefit will be those out to sabotage relations in the first place. Particularly sad considering that Indians never tire of lecturing Pakistanis about the need for regional cooperation and good neighbourly behaviour.