Chennai loses out

The shifting of Indian Premier League cricket matches out of Chennai reflects poorly on the Tamil Nadu administration. It is misleading to see the development as a victory for protesters espousing the Cauvery cause or as the inevitable result of the current political mood in Tamil Nadu. By conveying its inability to give adequate police security to the remaining matches to be held in the city, the State government, which had adopted a wishy-washy attitude towards holding the IPL in Chennai, simply capitulated. It is undeniable that there were aggressive protests around the Chepauk stadium just before the season’s first match in the city. Road blockades, frayed tempers and scuffles between the police and protesters suggested it would be a challenge to hold more matches. But governments exist to maintain public order and are expected to stand up to threats made by a fringe, whether it is calling for the ban of a book, a film or a cricket match. If cricket is a victim of such protests, it is because of its very success. It is a soft, high-profile target for those who want to raise their visibility and profile. This is why the sheer irrationality of singling out one tournament – which has no connection whatsoever to the Centre or the State government or the Cauvery crisis for that matter — was lost on those leading the call for a ban.

Instead of going weak and ambivalent on assurances of safety, the State government and the police should have worked out a solution under which scheduled matches and the right of the protesters to voice their grievances were both protected. As for the IPL management, it may have felt there was sufficient reason to drop Chepauk as a venue because of the State government’s attitude. While cricket stadiums are now securely protected, there was no mechanism to screen ticket-buyers and — as the last match in Chepauk revealed — very little that can be done to stop protesters from flinging shoes and other objects on to the ground. There is legitimate and widespread concern in Tamil Nadu over the Centre’s inexplicable delay in framing a scheme to resolve the Cauvery problem, over which there has been more than one protest over the last few days. But the fact that the Chennai Super Kings’ ‘home’ matches will now be played in Pune is a blow to the game’s fans in Chennai. That the IPL is a commercially driven extravaganza bordering on entertainment does not justify it being fair game for protesters. It may be true that sport cannot remain completely divorced from politics and there is no denying the dominant political mood on the Cauvery issue. However, rarely has this principle been extended to threaten a sporting event that has no link whatsoever to the political cause — in this case a water-sharing crisis that principally involves two States.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 10:36:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/chennai-loses-out/article23516785.ece

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