Tuesday, December 8, 2009

No IPL, no problem!

KARACHI: Shahid Afridi is widely regarded as the most destructive Twenty20 player, having proved his class in back-to-back ICC World Twenty20 championships in South Africa (2007) and England (2009).

But the 29-year-old all-rounder will be missing the world’s most lucrative Twenty20 spectacle — the Indian Premier League (IPL) — for the second consecutive year along with his other Pakistan teammates.

It’s not that Afridi or other leading Pakistani cricketers are not good enough for the IPL because several of the league’s franchises were interested in them. It’s just that they’ve become victims of the strained Pakistan-India relations.

Is Afridi disappointed after learning that he won’t be featuring in the IPL? “Not really,” he told ‘The News’ in an interview on Tuesday. “I mean it would have been good to make our IPL comeback next year but it is now clear that we won’t be able to do that. It’s like we can’t do anything about it,” he said.

Afridi, who is Pakistan Twenty20 captain, sees Pakistan’s omission from the IPL as a blessing in disguise as it will allow him and his teammates to completely focus on the preparations for the 2010 World Twenty20 in the West Indies.

The next season of the IPL will precede the World Twenty20 to be held next May when Pakistan will be defending their world title. “Now that it has been decided that we are not playing (in the IPL) we will have a perfect window to hold a proper camp and get ready for the Twenty20 World Cup,” said Afridi, who was Pakistan’s biggest star in their successful World Twenty20 campaign in England last June.

Afridi is looking at the bright side of things but in the meantime he is also aware that he and other Pakistani players have been deprived of a chance to feature in what is one of world cricket’s most glamorous events.

He believes that the Indian cricket authorities fell short of doing their bit to confirm the participation of Pakistani players in the Twenty20 league. “I think Pakistan have always been supportive of Indian cricket in the past which is why I was expecting them (India) to be more positive towards us,” he said.

“But it seems that’s not the case. I personally believe that sports promote harmony and it would have been good for both Pakistan and India if our players would have been allowed to play in the IPL.

“I think the absence of our cricketers will not be good for cricket or the IPL,” he stressed. Afridi, who played for Deccan Chargers in the inaugural IPL last year, was approached by 2008 champions Rajashthan Royals for the next season.

Other Pakistani players who were looking forward to featuring in the competition include Sohail Tanvir, Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal, Umar Gul and Misbah-ul-Haq. Several other of their teammates were also approached by different franchises, who were eager to have members of the team that won the World Twenty20 title less than six months back playing for them in the IPL.

On Monday, IPL chairman Lalit Modi ruled out the participation of Pakistani players in the third IPL edition beginning in March next year due to an ongoing delay in obtaining visas for the event.

The Pakistan Cricket Board was keen on its players participating in the third edition in India next year and, although the government has this time cleared the team to participate, the players have not yet been furnished with visas.

IPL chairman Lalit Modi, who had last month extended the deadline to December 7 for Pakistan’s players to get clearances in order, said the league could not permit more extensions.

The Pakistan government barred its players from travelling to India for the second edition of the IPL this year and they stayed at home even after the Twenty20 tournament was shifted to South Africa.

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