Kashmir Emerges As A New Disruption In Global Cricket

SRINAGAR: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) promoted Kashmir Premier League (KPL) is emerging a major disruption in international cricket as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has conveyed to all the cricket boards that players participating in the League will not be welcome in India and will never have any commercial connection with BCCI. This came in response to the revelations by a South African cricketer saying that BCCI has tried to prevent him from participating in the KPL.

The Narol Cricket Stadium in MUzaffarabad will play host to the controversial T20 KPL that starts on August 6, 2021. BCCI has warned international cricketers from participating in the tournament. Pic: Internet

On Saturday, a cricketer said the BCCI is preventing him from participating in the upcoming KPL in Muzaffarabad. Promoted by PCB, the Twenty20 tourney starts on August 6 and will conclude 10 days later.

Herschelle Gibbs, former South Africa cricketer made the first revelation by tweeting about the BCCI efforts on Saturday. He said it was “completely unnecessary” of the Board of Control for Cricket in India “to bring their political agenda with Pakistan into the equation and trying to prevent me (from) playing in the KPL. Also threatening me (by) saying they won’t allow me entry into India for any cricket related work. Ludicrous.”

Gibbs was one of the accused in the 2000 match-fixing scandal, who had signed up to play in KPL as a member of the Overseas Warriors team.

A similar revelation was made by a former Pakistan cricketer, Rashid Latif.

At least four former England international players — Monty Panesar, Matt Prior, Phil Mustard, and Owais Shah, according to Hindustan Times have announced their withdrawal from the KPL. The tourney’s media manager Saqib Abbasi has told reporters that a player each from South Africa and Sri Lanka have withdrawn after being “pressured by the BCCI”.

Pakistan Reaction

In quick response to the revelations, Pakistan said it was a direct interference and politicization of cricket. “The PCB considers that the BCCI has brought the game into disrepute by issuing warnings to multiple ICC Members to stop their retired cricketers from featuring in the Kashmir Premier League, further threatening they will not be allowed entry into India for cricket-related work,” the PCB said in its statement. “Such conduct from the BCCI is completely unacceptable, against the preamble of the Spirit of Cricket and sets a dangerous precedent, which can neither be tolerated nor ignored.” It has threatened that it will raise the issue “at the appropriate ICC forum”.

Remnants of the last international cricket match that was played in Srinagar in 1983. The picture was clicked in 2010. The Stadium was later retrieved, redesigned and refurbished. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Shehryar Khan Afridi, who heads the Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir has asked the International Cricket Council to take notice of the “tactics employed by the BCCI” to forward “India’s political and hegemonic plots”, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.

“He said the Indians were trying to mislead the foreign players by claiming their security would be at risk if they took part in the KPL. But all the players should know that the KPL management would provide state-level security to the participating teams and players,” the newspaper added. In the same presser, KPL president, Arif Malik, alleged that India was “threatening even the commentators as well as the broadcasters”.

Herschelle Gibbs

BCCI Response

A day after the controversy erupted, the BCCI responded by explaining its position.

“While asking the boards not to allow their players to take part in the Kashmir League, we have informed them that in case they do, they can’t be part of any cricketing activity in India. We have done this keeping national interest in mind,” a top BCCI official was quoted saying by The Sunday Express. “We have no problems with those playing the Pakistan Super League (PSL) but this is a league in PoK. We are toeing our government’s line.”

“The BCCI would be well within their rights to take decisions with respect to the cricketing ecosystem in India. The fact that the Indian cricketing ecosystem is the most sought after for cricketing opportunities globally,” another official was quoted saying by the ANI. “They (PCB) are welcome to raise the matter at the ICC and one can understand where this is coming from but the question that they need to ask themselves is whether it is on account of government interference in their working since the PM of Pakistan is officially their Patron as per their own constitution. It is time to consider whether this issue also ought to be raised at the ICC.”

What Is KPL

The KPL is a T20 tourney’s first edition that will be played in the refurbished stadium at Muzaffarabad, the capital city of Pakistani controlled Kashmir.

It was conceived in 2020. It will have six teams – five of which would be drawn from different Pakistan-administered Kashmir areas and one will be from the Kashmir diaspora. The teams have been named as – Overseas Warriors, Muzaffarabad Tigers, Rawalakot Hawks, Bagh Stallions, Mirpur Royals and Kotli Lions, led by prominent Pakistan current and cricketers Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik, and Kamran Akmal, respectively. As per the information available online, each team will have five local Kashmiri players.

Apparently, the idea is to offer exposure to the local talent and get them to rub their shoulders with international cricketers. But getting international players to Muzaffarabad also means reinforcing the status quo on a territory that is disputed.

PCB has two leagues, the Pakistan Super League and KPL. It is led by Choudhary Shahzad Akhtar with Arif Malik as founding President and Wasim Akram is founding Vice President. Shahid Afridi is its Brand Ambassador. Its official Anthem Song, released on February 16 on YouTube was sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

A KPL In Srinagar

What is interesting, a KPL is already in Kashmir. The KPL2021, phase 2 was inaugurated in DPS Srinagar on July 28. Managed by the Srinagar based Chinar Corps, the KPL2021 has a participation of 10 teams from 10 districts of Kashmir who are expected to play 20 League matches in different locations across Kashmir.

However, the participating teams are locals and no international or even a national player is involved. The League is expected to conclude on August 10.

Policemen deployed on imposing “restrictions” in old Srinagar city, playing cricket on the road outside Jamia Masjid on Friday, December 22, 2017. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Why BCCI Reacted?

This is nothing new between India and Pakistan when it comes to cricket in the divided Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, Pakistan strongly reacted to two one-day international cricket matches that the host team played with West Indies and Australia. In one match, even the local youngsters became the cheerleaders for the West Indies team and eventually, a crisis erupted that led to the defacement of the pitch. Both the matches took place before the militancy set-in in 1990. In fact, one of the matches was seen as one indicator of the simmering Kashmir crisis.

This time when Islamabad is trying to create a brand on the Kashmir it controls, Delhi sees it is the adequate payback time. BCI, one of the world’s cash-rich cricket boards uses its status to dictate terms on the players.

“The political tensions between India and Pakistan due to Kashmir is something everyone knows of,” online media outlet, The Bridge explained. “And since the PCB is hosting the KPL with a name and area which India considers to be its own, the Indian government and BCCI are unhappy with the league showing no signs of slowing down.”

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