Indian members of the Tamil ethnic group burn match tickets outside the MA Chidhambram cricket stadium © AFP
Indian members of the Tamil ethnic group burn match tickets outside the MA Chidhambram cricket stadium © AFP

The commencement of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 has so far been blemished with controversy. Despite public support for Chennai Super Kings (CSK), certain section of the society has targeted the returning franchise. Tamil Nadu is currently raging with Cauvery dispute that has engulfed the state into frenzy, which is being seen as an agenda for political parties. Sadly, IPL being an easy target and has faced the wrath of the parties, which has disrupted the sanctity of the game in the state. IPL just made its way to Chennai after 2015. The cricket-crazy public were denied their much deserved dose. They got a glimpse before the curtains were forcefully closed.

Local fans are now being devoid of watching the likes of MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo in flesh and blood. This is not the first time that cricket or rather IPL has been hit by political crisis. For the last couple of years, it was Maharashtra’s drought that caused a stir. While cricket is not directly involved in any of the activities related to the cause, its mention helps attract national and international eyeballs.

The cliché goes cricket is a religion in India and subcontinent. Political stability or lack of it goes a long way in handling state of the game in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. For example, Pakistan is currently facing regional crisis, with different city-based cricket associations fighting court cases for control.

India-Pakistan cricket ties have been directionally proportionate to political harmony at the top level. Both nations despite not being in a state absolute peace, have managed to tour each other to increase harmony via sports.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) despite being an autonomous body has to go through various government procedures and meet guidelines to host cricket matches in India. According to BCCI constitution, no political party can be involved in direct functioning of the governing body.

Political parties feel cricket is an easy avenue to gain attention and build on the popularity of the agenda. IPL being one of the most watched global events, it gives them unprecedented exposure to masses. Celebrities are soft targets. So, for political parties, it is easy to en-cash.

In a country which sees nationalist stance grow by the second, public figures or events would not dare to take on a political party. Everyone is more concerned about individual safety; not wrong in any way. Despite asking for security, it become hard of personnel to manage massive crowds or protesters; as seen during CSK’s match against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at Chepauk, where shoes were thrown into the playing area. Leaders of political parties have condemned such acts of violence, but haven’t they ignited, incited and provoked such actions.?

Players, officials and fans safety and well-being is top priority for the authorities, and hence they bow down to such threats. Human life is more important than any sport, but picking on cricket because it is a game loved by millions is being opportunist .

The IPL will continue to attract big money despite being the eye of the storm for reason beyond its purview. It will be interesting to see whether political parties continue to keep their vigil throughout the year to make any impact (Cauvery dispute), or just be another brick in the wall of many protests during IPL for publicity motive.