Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has reached out to several former international players who were participating in Kashmir Premier League (KPL) and asked them to withdraw. It threatened the players that if they go ahead with this Pakistan’s new domestic league, then they cannot enter India for any cricket-related work. The controversy intensified when South African Herschelle Gibbs called out BCCI for letting their structural hate for Pakistan overpower the love for cricket.
He further claimed that the Indian cricket authority threatened him to withdraw from KPL otherwise they will ban him from playing in India. Gibbs added that BCCI secretary Jay Shah first sent the message to legendary Graeme Smith, director of South African Cricket. Smith then forwarded the message to Gibbs to show him what India was doing.
What is Kashmir Premier League?
Kashmir Premier League (KPL) is a new T20 format domestic league sanctioned by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) while the Government of Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and the Government of Punjab (GOP) are also jointly involved. The inaugural tournament features six franchise teams from AJK and is scheduled from 6- 16 August in the capital, Muzaffarabad.
All teams are owned by private businessmen and are named; Muzaffarabad Tigers, Kotli Lions, Mirpur Royals, Rawalkot Hawks, Bagh Stallions, and Overseas Warriors. Five teams represent the cities of AJK while one is for overseas Kashmiris. Moreover, all 5 teams have reserved one slot each for an overseas player.
KPL was launched in 2020 by Kashmir’s Senior MNA, Shehryar Khan Afridi, and also promoted as a league that will allow Kashmiri women to play cricket. President of AJK Masood Khan serves as its Chief Patron, Shahzad Akhtar is CEO, Arif Malik is founding president while former Pakistani captain Wasim Akram is Vice President. Shahid Afridi is KPL’s brand ambassador and the captain of Rawalkot Hawks.
The games will take place inside Muzaffarabad Stadium located in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. India claims that Pakistan designed KPL to promote their version of the Kashmir story and legitimize their occupation. The region is a central focus of a dispute between these two countries, which have occupied it since 1947. Both claim full control over the region but are just administering separate parts of it, jeopardizing the freedom of locals.
Will Players Stay or Leave?
Despite the warnings and threats, two players have reportedly confirmed their participation in Kashmir Premier League. One of them is Gibbs, who would be playing in Overseas Warriors and recently Sri Lankan legend Tillakaratne Dilshan also decided to join. Reportedly, TM Dilshan’s KPL team will be Muzaffarabad Tigers.
On the other hand, former England’s bowler Monty Panesar announced his withdrawal from the tournament. He mentioned that he did not want to miss the opportunities for work in India which is why he refused to go ahead with KPL.
It was sad for the cricket fans to see how the retired players are still not free to decide for themselves. Other English players including Owais Shah, Phil Mustard, and Matt Prior were also participating before but now it is not confirmed yet.
What Has the Reaction Been?
Cricket fans in Pakistan and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) consider that BCCI has severely disrespected the players and the game of cricket. Former Pakistani captain Rashid Latif alleged that BCCI has been warning cricket boards around the world to convince them in stopping their retired players to play in KPL. Shehryar Afridi said that Kashmir Premier League will continue as scheduled despite the statements from India.
The President of AJK and Chief Patron of KPL posted on social media that India should back off with tyranny and let the player enjoy the game as they wish.
Indians who support BCCI’s decision welcomed the move and said all the players joining Kashmir Premier League are terror enablers. However, after revoking article 370 and taking away the special status of Kashmir, the Indian government has made Kashmiri locals subservient to the Indian constitution rather than making progress towards making Kashmir independent. KPL on the other hand promotes Kashmir as an Independent nation capable of holding sporting events. Therefore, it is clear who is a “terror enabler” in Kashmir.
Many Pakistani journalists have seen this development as a free marketing campaign for KPL. The “Kashmir Premier League” search term continues to gain pace on Google Trends ever since the news about BCCI’s behavior. Before this, not many people knew that such a competition existed. So, the supporters of KPL have thanked the Indian board because many people have been coming to learn about it.