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The Indian Premier League is all set for a new season, starting April 3. And it is a measure of the League's repeatedly demonstrated ability to pull off audacious quick-fixes unavailable to international cricket that there is so little flutter about its decision to disallow the participation of any Sri Lankan cricketer in matches played in Chennai.
But do pause for a few minutes and take your mind off the business-as-usual calculations of what the absence of a Kumar Sangakkara or a Muttiah Muralitharan from a potentially crucial match at Chepauk would mean for the fortunes of his franchise. Consider instead what their mandated absence — and that of their compatriots, such as Ajantha Mendis, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lasith Malinga, Mahela Jayawardene — from the field means. The roll call of names is important because this expedient measure is, in the end, about them. It is not based on some abstract principle of not playing cricket with another country, which, highly debatable though it may have been, would have moved the discussion away from the field of play. As the state of play currently stands, Sri Lankan players are very much part of the IPL, they will play at other venues, and it is only on account of presumed security concerns in Tamil Nadu that they will not be allowed to alight on the Chennai ground. This move is, then, clearly not about using sport as an element of coercive diplomacy to pressure the Sri Lankan government to deliver on devolution, reconciliation and rehabilitation. It is only targeted at a bunch of individuals to make some point — which is what exactly?
A sport is only as noble as its compact with its players and spectators. The competitive mobilisation by political parties in Tamil Nadu apart, can cricket's administrators escape some tough questions? Questions that, first of all, the profiles of the affected players pose.