Barely a week before its inauguration, the participation of top Sri Lankan players in the high-profile IPL was thrown into jeopardy after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha refused to host them in view of the prevailing anti-Sinhalese sentiments in the state.
The development has now virtually ruled out the participation of Sri Lankan players in the IPL matches in Chennai even as top BCCI officials discussed the issue to find a compromise solution.
Although the BCCI or the IPL Governing Council have not made any official statement, it is learnt that the IPL franchises would be advised to bench their Sri Lankan players for the matches in Chennai.
Altogether 13 Sri Lankan players, two of whom are captains of their respective teams, are taking part in the sixth edition of the league which will start from April 3.
Chennai, the home for Chennai Super Kings, will stage 10 matches in all, including two eliminators, and a top BCCI official said that it will continue to remain a venue.
“We are reviewing the situation after the latest development and we will take a call. But we will go ahead with the tournament and Chennai will continue to be a venue,” IPL Chairman Rajeev Shukla said.
“We have to take two things into account. We have to take the local sentiments into account and at same time the safety and security of the Sri Lankan players are paramount,” he said.
“If the local administration has given something we have to listen to that as ultimately we need the help of the state authorities to hold the tournament like security arrangement. We can’t ignore the advice from the local administration,” he said.
Shukla said that he would discuss the issue with all the franchises and Sri Lankan Cricket (SLC) board before taking a final decision.
“We will discuss the issue with the franchises. They also understand the situation. We will take them into confidence. We will also speak to the Sri Lankan Cricket Board. They also understand the issue,” he added.
Shukla said that there were no issues regarding the Sri Lankan players in other venues.
“The issue is only with Chennai. Sri Lankan players can take part in other venues,” he said.
In the letter to the Prime Minister, Jayalalitha said BCCI may be advised by the Centre to prevail upon the IPL Organizers not to allow Sri Lankan players, officials, umpires and support staff to take part in the tournament in the state.
“In view of the popular antipathy and anger in Tamil Nadu against the actions of the Government of Sri Lanka, the Government of Tamil Nadu is of the view that IPL matches involving Sri Lankan players, umpires and other officials should not be played in Tamil Nadu,” she said.
“The Government of Tamil Nadu will permit IPL matches to be held in Tamil Nadu only if the organizers provide an undertaking that no Sri Lankan players, umpires, officials or support staff would participate in these matches,” she said.
Sri Lankan Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said that the Lankan players will be told not to take part in Chennai matches if the BCCI or the Indian government were not able to provide security to them.
“We have written to the BCCI whether they can provide security to our players. We have also requested the foreign ministry to ask the Indian government whether they would provide security to our players. Only in case our players are provided security we will allow them to take part in the matches in Chennai,” he said.
“We are not dealing with the Tamil Nadu government. We are only dealing with the BCCI and the Indian government. We have a very good relationship with the BCCI and we want our players to take part in the IPL if they are given security,” he added.
The Sri Lankan Sports Minister made it clear that there was no issue over Lankan cricketers playing in other Indian cities. “We have no issues with our players playing in other venues,” he said.
While the BCCI is not planning to shift matches out of Chennai, it may have to review the situation for the Qualifier 1 and eliminator.
The franchises may agree to bench Sri Lankan players for the league matches in view of the prevailing situation but may not be keen to do so in a crucial match like the eliminator.
In such a scenario, the Qualifier 1 and eliminator scheduled to be held on May 21 and 22 respectively may be moved out of Chennai.
For the league stages, Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils and Hyderabad Sunrisers will have to bench key players like Lasith Malinga, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, respectively for their matches in Chennai.
Barring Kings XI Punjab, all the other franchises have at least one or more Sri Lankan players in their squad.
Sri Lankans in the IPL:
Chennai Super Kings: Akila Dananjaya and N Kulasekara
Delhi Daredevils: Mahela Jayawardene (captain) and Jeevan Mendis.
Knight Riders: Sachithra Senanayake.
Mumbai Indians: Lasith Malinga.
Pune Warriors India: Ajantha Mendis and Angelo Mathews.
Rajasthan Royals: Kusal Janith Perera.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Muthaiah Muralitharan and Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Kumar Sangakkara and Thisara Perera.