NEW DELHI: The Indian state of Tamil Nadu on Tuesday barred Sri Lankan cricketers from playing in Chennai, prompting the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) governing body to rework the fixtures starting next month to comply with the decision.
Earlier, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying: “The participation of Sri Lankan players in the IPL tournament, with many games to be played in Chennai, will aggravate an already charged atmosphere and further offend the sentiments of the people.”
Widespread protests are raging in the state against alleged war crimes carried out by Sri Lankan troops in Jaffna home to the island nation’s minority Tamils.
The fate of the Indian government is hanging by a thread after Dr Singh’s Tamil ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, withdrew from the ruling coalition over New Delhi’s tardy response to the issue. It has so far refrained from withdrawing support to the beleaguered government.
Chennai is scheduled to host 10 matches including a qualifier and an eliminator after the league phase.
Jayalalitha’s letter prompted the IPL governing council to convene an emergency meeting where it was decided that Sri Lankan players and officials will not take part in the matches to be played in Chennai.
“Today, the honourable chief minister of Tamil Nadu has written to the prime minister of India stating that she will not permit the participation of Sri Lankan players or umpires in matches in Chennai during IPL 2013.
“The security of all involved in the IPL whether players, spectators or those working in the stadiums is of paramount importance to the BCCI. The governing council decided that Sri Lankan players will not participate in the IPL 2013 league matches in Chennai and will advise the nine franchises accordingly,” IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla said.
It was a rather quick response to a strongly worded letter from the chief minister.
“The BCCI may be advised by the government of India to prevail upon the IPL organisers not to allow Sri Lankan players, officials, umpires and support staff to take part in the tournament in Tamil Nadu.
“The government of Tamil Nadu will permit IPL matches to be held in Tamil Nadu only if the organisers provide an undertaking that no Sri Lankan players, umpires, officials or support staff would participate in these matches,” said the letter.
This would be the second instance of the IPL saying no to players from a neighbouring nation, although this time they have been barred from taking part only in one city.
Pakistan players have not been picked by any of the franchisees since 2009. Azhar Mahmood is the only Pakistani to have made it — to Kings XI Punjab — because he holds a British passport.
Recently, the Asian Athletics Championship scheduled to be held in July in Chennai was shifted. The State government cited pro-Sri Lankan Tamil sentiments among the people as the reason.