The Indian Premier League (IPL) is sending officials to England and South Africa to decide which country should host this year’s Twenty20 cricket competition.
“Delegations from IPL will be going to both countries within 24 hours to assess venues and discuss the possibilities and logistics,” IPL chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi said yesterday.
A decision on the host was expected within days.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India announced on the weekend it was shifting the tournament offshore because the government had refused to sanction its match schedule. The April 10-May 24 competition clashes with India’s federal elections, causing concern that security forces would be stretched too thinly to cover both events.
The IPL attracts many of the world’s leading players on lucrative contracts.
Some players and officials have expressed concerns about playing on the subcontinent after terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore, Pakistan earlier this month.
Seven Sri Lankan Test players, an assistant coach and a match official were among those injured in an ambush by gunmen as the team traveled to Gaddafi Stadium. Six policemen and a driver were killed.
Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram earlier yesterday defended the government’s stance on security for sports events in the wake of the IPL’s decision to move the tournament.
“I’ve repeatedly said that cricket or any other game is completely safe when played in India,” Chidambaram said. “The question is when the matches should be played. Should they be played when the elections are in full swing?”
Elections for the Indian Parliament’s lower house will take place across the country in five different phases between April 16 and May 13. The government wanted IPL organizers to delay the tournament, but that would have been impractical with the Twenty20 World Cup scheduled for June in England.
“Holding matches outside India is their [the BCCI’s] decision. I don’t wish to make a judgment on that,” Chidambaram said. “Cricket is a game. In India, it’s a hugely popular game. However, it appears IPL is more than a game, it’s a shrewd combination of sport and business.”
“There’s no need to add politics to this combination,” he said.
Chidambaram said the cricket board’s statement obliquely criticized the government, even though it was the state security agencies that raised the most concern about match scheduling.
“The schedule substantially overlapped the election schedule, when we found that we conveyed our views to the IPL organizers,” Chidambaram said. “Every state that has expressed its reservation, saying they could provide security after the elections are over.”
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