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Bikas Das/AP
Former Indian cricket captain
Sourav Ganguly

Threat of Terrorism Casts Doubt on Future of Indian Cricket

March 20, 2009 07:00 AM
by Denis Cummings
The disclosure that Pakistani militants planned to kidnap Indian cricketers underscores the terrorism concerns that threaten to cancel an upcoming cricket tournament.

Kidnapping Plot Stokes Cricket Terrorism Fears

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The Delhi Police told a city court Tuesday that a Pakistan-based Islamic group had planned to kidnap Indian cricket players Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar earlier this decade. The revelation, coming two weeks after the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked in Pakistan, has cast further doubt on the safety of cricketers in the subcontinent.

The Indian Premier League, a professional league that includes many of the world’s best players, is scheduled to begin its Twenty-20 cricket tournament next month despite security concerns following the Sri Lanka attack. League officials and sponsors are reluctant to cancel the lucrative tournament, which generates $1 billion from television alone.

The six-week tournament, which runs from April 10 to May 24, coincides with the general elections in India between April 16 and May 13. The Indian government has warned the IPL that government security forces will be unable to provide adequate security for both the elections and the cricket games, and has asked the IPL to postpone the tournament.
The IPL has been working with the government to adjust the tournament schedule, and on Tuesday it announced that the cities of New Delhi and Jaipur—home of defending champions the Rajasthan Royals—would not be hosting matches. The schedule appears likely to be approved by the government, but there is still doubt surrounding the tournament.

Delhi Police Commissioner Y. S. Dadwal said Wednesday that he agreed matches should not be held in the capital city. “We are stretched,” he said. “I will have to withdraw personnel from their present assignments to provide security for IPL matches. We are all cricket fans, but my priority is to provide security to the people.”

Background: Lahore cricket attack

On March 3, a bus carrying the Sri Lankan national cricket team to its match in Lahore, Pakistan, was attacked by 12 gunmen believed to belong to a militant group with ties to al-Qaida. Six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed, while several players and coaches were injured.

Due to the attack, the first terrorist attack targeting athletes since the 1972 Munich massacre, international cricket matches will not be played in Pakistan for the foreseeable future. Many analysts fear that a terrorist attack in India would have a similar effect.

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Opinion & Analysis: IPL security concerns

Cricket columnist Pradeep Magazine writes in the Hindustan Times that tournament organizers must be willing adhere to the government’s requests in order to protect the long-term future of the game. Though the IPL may lose money by radically changing its schedule, it cannot risk a terrorist attack that would devastate cricket in the country.

“If those who administer the game don’t respond with care and sensitivity, this million-dollar industry could come to a grinding halt,” he writes.

However, some IPL officials believe that security concerns are not the cause of the government’s objections to the IPL schedule, according to Cricket360. One official anonymously told the Web site, “Politicians want the election fever to grip the nation. They don’t want them to get distracted by Indian Premier League. … Politicians of all parties would prefer to get IPL off their backs till the elections are over.”

Reference: Cricket and the IPL

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