The eagerly-anticipated Indian Premier League auction sparked a bidding war and an even fiercer political row yesterday after buyers snubbed players from Pakistan, the World Twenty 20 champions. Shahid Afridi, the star of their T20 win over Sri Lanka at Lord's in June, Sohail Tanvir, the leading wicket-taker in the first IPL, Umar Gul and the exciting Mohammed Aamer were among 11 Pakistan players in the 66-man auction yesterday but they were all ignored by the eight franchises who are said to be apprehensive about obtaining visas for the players.
The news comes as another blow to Pakistan cricket. The troubled country has not hosted a home international match since the attack on the Sri Lanka team bus last March and tournaments such as the IPL provide a rare chance for their fanatical supporters to see their heroes in action. Following the auction, Afridi accused India of "making fun of us" while Tanvir said the decision was "based on political grounds".
Pakistan cricketers took part in the inaugural IPL in 2008, but were denied permission last year following the militant attacks in Mumbai. "It's a very negative signal and shouldn't have happened," said Afridi, who had a base price of US$250,000 (Dh918,250). "We have a huge fan base in India and Indian fans love to see Pakistani cricketers. "The way I see it, the IPL and India have made fun of us and our country by treating us this way. We are the Twenty20 World Champions and for me the attitude of the franchises was disappointing.
"The Indian government may have put pressure on IPL franchises and prevented them from picking up Pakistan players as most of the franchises wanted to take us." Tanvir, who helped Rajasthan Royals win the title in 2008, says the organisers should have avoided embarrassing Pakistan cricketers by not including them in the auction list if they had no plans to pick them. "They mean to say none of our players are good enough to be in the IPL?" asked Tanvir.
"I am sorry to say the franchises have taken a decision not based on cricketing sense but on political grounds, which is a shame and has hurt the image of the sport. "Why create all this fuss about visa requirements and government clearances? If they don't want us they should be clear about it in the first place." Abdul Razzaq, the Pakistan all-rounder, added: "They have basically tried to hurt our cricket and image."
Meanwhile, Kieron Pollard, the West Indies all-rounder, topped the bidding yesterday, attracting an undisclosed winning fee, exceeding his price of US$750,000 per season. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org More IPL, s5