Cricket and new security paradigm
March 1, 2010 2 Comments
The biggest cricket carnival, The Indian Premier League is about to unveil. After an embattled Government refused to guarantee security, the second edition of the tournament was played in South Africa. This time around, the world’s biggest cricket merchants, the BCCI, are determined to bring the ‘product’ back to it’s biggest market, India.
BCCI has controversy as it’s constant companion and true to it’s reputation, the ‘rejection’ of the Pakistani players caused a furore, almost threatening to halt the release of a film. Now that this controversy has died down, the focus shifts to the next crucial aspect viz Security.
The world isn’t the same place it was ever since 9/11. Much before, the subcontinent isn’t the same place it was ever since the fateful day – 6th December 1992. The Mumbai blasts of March’ 93 exposed the vulnerability of a poorly manned, poorly managed, corrupt under belly of India. That an embodiment of inefficiency in the form of Shivaraj Patil will preside over the department responsible for internal security is just the “icing on the cake”.
Quite disparagingly the Indians are known to have 2 major passions : If they are not fighting over caste or religion and while not procreating Indians are passionate about movies and cricket. The IPL became an unique product blending both sports and entertainment to create “sportainment”.
The way Indians have lapped up the product naturally makes it a huge security hazard. With a neighbour (lovable according to a certain Khan) sworn to inflict a 1000 cuts, every Indian street faces a potential threat every minute of the day. IPL has just added yet another dimension to this grim security situation.
Of the several noises that have emanated so far on the vexed issue of security, the one that provided me the impetus for this note, was that of Ravi Bopara. The over-rated (and if I may dare say, overpaid) English cricketer of Indian origin said, paraphrasing, that while cricket is his life, he doesn’t consider it worthy enough to die for. I am of the view that the comment has wider implications and deserves greater scrutiny than the one accorded to it by the boss of IPL, Lalit Modi.
Coming from Bopara who is of Indian origin, the statement assumes greater significance. If someone who is more culturally close to India finds it unnerving to visit, I guess it is unfair to demand participation from players from Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa who are known to be more paranoid.
It is no use to keep saying that ‘No place in the world is really safe’. Well, as a cliché it may just work ; skeptics could point out the attacks in London and Madrid but the point that is often overseen is that these attacks in the western world are aberrations or exceptions while in the subcontinent it is the rule.
The confidence of the cricketing world was dented with the attack on the Srilankan cricketers in Lahore to permanently change the equation between cricket and security. India has managed to keep it’s head above water and portray itself as distinct from Pakistan. Thanks to our erstwhile colonial rulers, the Englishmen, returned for a Test series even after 26 / 11 resulting in a famous successful 4th innings chase by India at Chennai.
India is the market which feeds millions to the coffers of BCCI and ICC. That should however not cloud the judgment on the security issues and more importantly prevent the powers that be from recognizing the emerging security paradigm.
Readers may be upset that I am lumping India and Pakistan together but we are unfortunately in a situation where we have to deal with this monster called Pakistan. Considering the constant ranting from the militants housed by Pakistan and it’s refusal to acknowledge India’s concerns, I would recommend that we relook at some of the essential aspects of cricket in India :
a) Consider playing IPL matches to empty stands. Before anyone berates me, we should first analyze the popularity of cricket in India. Cricket is popular among all social levels cutting across economic strata. About 80% of Indians can never afford a ticket to the stadium despite which cricket remains the most popular sport in India.
b) Gate collections are a small percentage of the overall “market” for cricket in India. Television rights and marketing collaterals ring in more dollars for BCCI way beyond anyone’s imagination. So, it is highly recommended that cricketing authorities give a serious thought to “de-risking” the game by not allowing spectators on to the ground.
c) Privatization of Cricket security is another key aspect to be given serious consideration. Especially in countries like India where the police machinery is really incapable of any swift action and the constabulary is of poor quality, private participation in security is really the need of the hour.
d) Just beyond rhetorical support for the subcontinent, the ICC should establish a Standard Operating Procedure of Security for events in the subcontinent. This would go a long way in removing the apprehensions of the visiting nations because they would be assured that security design is not left to the capabilities of the local centre
e) Post IPL 2010, a serious thought must be given about hosting of major events outside of subcontinent. Especially the World cup 2011 which is just an year away and much closer is the Commonwealth Games 2010. While some of the readers may read this as yielding to the designs of the terrorists, I would recommend a more pragmatic approach. A moratorium of say 2 years would provide us some time before we can securitise our cricket infrastructure and also hopefully the police machinery can be modernized – hopefully Mr Chidambaram is reading this.
Cricket has become part of our national culture and ethos. It would be a great shame if we were to lose this game to terror for ever. It is time to recognize the newer security paradigms and prepare ourselves for the future.
India will not be a safe country merely by we claiming it to be safe. We need to make it safe, all of us together, making some personal sacrifices, taking upon some inconveniences. We need to pause and relook at ourselves, now, so that we can march on confidently in the future.