Indian authorities say a decision by the organizers of a major cricket tournament to move the event out of the country due to security concerns will not impact the future of cricket in India. But some say it will give a setback to the hugely popular sport in South Asia.
A day after the organizers of the Indian Premier League said they will stage its second season in another country, the government tried to allay concerns about the future of the game in India, where cricket is a rage.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram said Monday cricket is completely safe in the country. But he said several states could not spare security forces for the six-week tournament because it was coinciding with Indian elections.
"If after taking note of these limitations, some states have expressed their inability to provide security to the IPL match during the 45 day period of elections, that is a judgment that all right thinking citizens of India should respect," he said.
The cricket league's second season is scheduled from April 10 through May 24. The national elections are to be held mid April to mid May. Many international players will participate in the tournament.
The need for tight security for the mega sports event became apparent after an attack by gunmen on a bus carrying Sri Lanka's cricket team in Pakistan earlier this month. It was the first ever attack on cricketers.
Many cricket fans say they are disappointed that the event, in which cricketers play a faster-paced version of the game, is not being held in India. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has criticized the government for failing to provide security for cricket, forcing the event to be staged in another country.
Sri Vatsa, a sports columnist in New Delhi, says the government's concerns are justified. But he says the decision to hold this year's Indian Premier League outside India may prompt organizers to move it out of the country yet again.
"The only thing is, if this is a success, I have a sneaky fear that this experiment may be extended saying that we will take it to other countries also," he said.
Fears about security in India have been heightened following the terror strikes in Mumbai last year which killed 170 people.
Most cricket teams around the world have already said they will not play in Pakistan following last month's terror strike.
Cricket is hugely popular across the subcontinent, and many have been saddened that cricket stars became a target of terror groups.