Politicization of Cricket by India; Case Study of Kashmir Premier League
By Samrina Hamid
PCB launched Kashmir Premier League, a T20 Cricket League in 2021. There are seven franchises in this league; six teams represent major cities in Kashmir, while one team is representing the Kashmiri diaspora.
The league is designed to provide the young Cricket talent of AJK with a quality platform through which they can exhibit their skills to the world while getting exposure from renowned national and international cricketers. In the first edition, the teams were captained by Pakistan’s current and former cricketers Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, and Imad Wasim.
With the slogan of “Play with Freedom”, Pakistan invited many international cricketers to play matches in Muzaffarabad under the KPL. The Kashmir Premiere League also showcases the soft image of Pakistan and the opportunities provided by Pakistan to the Kashmiri youth. Unfortunately, India has brought the RSS ideology into the field of cricket as well. The Indian Cricket Board threatened former international cricketers for taking part in the inaugural Kashmir Premier League (KPL). On 2 August 2021, the BCCI urged ICC not to recognize the Kashmir Premier League due to the disputed nature of Kashmir region between India and Pakistan. In response, the ICC clarified that the tournament doesn't come under their jurisdiction as it is not an international tournament.
According to reports, the BCCI also asked foreign boards to ban their current and former players from taking part in the KPL league. (AJK). An ICC spokesperson, while speaking to Geo TV, said that the KPL is not under the jurisdiction of the apex cricketing body as it has not been recognized as an international tournament. According to rules, the ICC can only intervene if the domestic matches of a national federation are being held in an associate member’s territory. All board members have the authority to approve and conduct domestic matches within their territory without obtaining ICC approval.
Former South African player Herschelle Gibbs in a tweet said, “it was completely unnecessary of the BCCI ‘to bring their political agenda with Pakistan into the equation and try to prevent me from playing in the KPL. Also threatened me saying they won’t allow me entry into India for any cricket-related work. Ludicrous’. Gibbs confirmed the developments to Al Jazeera before adding that “the message from Mr. Shah [BCCI secretary] was sent to Graeme Smith [Cricket South Africa’s director of cricket] who passed it on to me”. In a statement, the PCB said “it considers that the BCCI has brought the game into disrepute by issuing warnings to multiple ICC Members to stop their retired cricketers from featuring in the Kashmir Premier League”.
India seems afraid that the KPL tournament would expose its oppression in IIOJK and the real situation of freedom and basic rights enjoyed by the people of Azad Kashmir would come to light. Holding a successful final match at AJK manifests that the Kashmiris living in AJK are living in a peaceful and secure environment unlike the innocent Kashmiris living in IIOJK. While Pakistan is giving an opportunity to the Kashmiri youth to show their potential to the world by giving them equal rights, India on the other hand is suppressing the youth in IIOJK and indulging in propaganda against KPL. Pakistan is holding Kashmir Premiere League in AJK as it has ensured a safe environment for Kashmiris whereas, India cannot think about holding a cricket premier league for innocent Kashmiris as it has illegally occupied the territory.