It’s a situation that has raised storms of controversy across the sporting world — already whole forests of pinewood have been erased in Canada to provide newsprint for the opinion formers. How can a major national sporting tournament be played in a different country? The decision of the IPL to move this year’s tournament to South Africa has raised both applause and opprobrium at the audacity of the decision. Can you imagine the NFL being played in Brazil or the Premier League in Botswana?
The reasons behind the decision are complex — increased security fears, political in-fighting in Maharashtra, the conflict over dates with the Lok Sabha elections, the demands of Sky television, but the Bollywood stars behind some of the biggest teams are remaining phlegmatic about the whole process. “We have to respect the elections. That is a bigger issue,” said Shah Rukh Khan of the Kolkata Knight Riders.
“We will try and be just as enthusiastic as we were last year,” added Preity Zinta of the Kings XI Punjab, “I completely respect this decision. Elections are number one priority and we had to take it into consideration. We want to have this tournament to happen too, so this is a good decision as every fan will still get to see it from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.” Indeed, with the move of the tournament to South Africa, it opened up the possibility of more Pakistan players being involved. The large NRI population in South Africa would also fill the stadia and create the right atmosphere.
Shilpa Shetty of the Rajasthan Royals stated, “If the choice is no tournament, or the tournament in another country, then we clearly prefer the latter.” Some of the fans, however, are not so calm — “Why don’t we have the IPL here and run the elections in South Africa instead?” one suggested.
Cinema owners and film personnel in India are pleased at the decision, removing as it does a major source of competition at a stroke. “This has become a routine for us. Every year, we postpone some of the releases due to IPL, exams or elections,” explained producer KC Bokadia, “But the shifting of the tournament may give a chance to films to make money.” Unfortunately, distributors had avoided scheduling any major releases during the IPL period and it’s probably too late to change this now.