Shifting the IPL a mistake

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Once weakness takes hold it’s hard to remove, writes Peter Roebuck

By shifting the IPL, Indian cricket has put itself at the mercy of forces beyond its control. It is a mistake. Suppose everything goes along without a hitch in South Africa. What then? And when might India next be considered safe enough for international players?

Bear in mind that IPL does not invite nations, merely cricketers from all relevant countries. And still the tournament could not be held, still it was sent overseas for security reasons.

Does India expect to stage the 2011 World Cup? Hereafter it will not take much to change its location as well. Once weakness takes hold it’s hard to remove.

Complicating matters

Obviously the election arrangements complicated matters. It is no small thing to oversee such a massive and precious event. India’s devotion to democracy must at all costs be protected. At such times sport takes a back seat. Inevitably the forces of law and order are obliged to focus on the efficient running of the campaigning, voting and counting.

Clearly it was too much to expect that they might at the same time protect hundreds of cricketers or watch over 59 widespread 59 matches.

But to move IPL away from India was to make a drastic concession. After all there is no reason to suppose the election will be any more turbulent than previous instances. Throughout history all sorts of conflicts have assailed the region. Those waiting for a quiet spell will grow long beards.

Except in the most dire circumstances, India ought to retreat from organising anything. Now the bullies know that this powerful nation can be turned.

Moreover South Africa is having an election of its own on April 22nd. Does any serious student of history imagine that it will be an easier to control than its counterpart in India? A new breakaway party is standing and the old rivalries between the predominantly Zulu party and the ANC constantly hovers on the verge of violence.

Hot heads

South Africa, too, has its share of hot heads. Although the local police are desperately trying to reduce the rampant crime figures before the 2010 soccer World Cup, it also has an abundance of murderers and thieves. IPL is not decamping to Switzerland but to a tough place whose passions have been stirred.

Nor is South Africa remotely as wealthy as India. Moreover it is rugby and soccer season. Will spectators turn up to watch a bunch of mostly obscure foreigners playing an evening match? Will they show up 59 times? Twenty over matches are a hoot but it’s a lot to ask.

South Africa will provide sunshine, grounds, hotels and a free hand with advertising and television contracts but is hardly a haven of peace and tranquillity. Evidently that is enough to persuade a major cricketing event to move from Mumbai to Durban, Kolkata to Cape Town.

India will rue the day it failed to take responsibility for one of its domestic competitions. On that day the cricket community bowed to pressure, caved into calumny. Of course it had no right to leave security to the police. But IPL says it has plenty of money, is spending a fortune on its African operation.

Lalit Modi and chums could have kept IPL on home territory. After all it is only 2 years old, much too early to fly the coop.

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