India ‘threatening cricketers’ signed up for Kashmir tournament

Players, organisers allege threats issued against international cricketers for upcoming league in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The KPL is scheduled to start from August 6 in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and will be contested by six teams captained by Pakistan's current and former cricketers [KPL]

Former international cricketers are being threatened and warned by the Indian cricket board against taking part in the inaugural Kashmir Premier League (KPL) cricket tournament, organisers and players have said.

The KPL is scheduled to start from August 6 in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and will be contested by six teams captained by Pakistan’s current and former cricketers – Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim.

On Saturday, former South African cricketer Herschelle Gibbs tweeted that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) warned him against taking part in the league which has been sanctioned by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

“Completely unnecessary of the @BCCI to bring their political agenda with Pakistan into the equation and trying to prevent me playing in the @kpl_20. Also threatening me saying they won’t allow me entry into India for any cricket related work. Ludicrous,” Gibbs said on Twitter.

The former South African batsman 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”.

On Saturday, former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif also alleged that the BCCI was warning cricket boards against allowing their players to take part in the tournament.

“The @BCCI warning cricket boards that if there former players took part in Kashmir Premier League, they won’t be allowed entry in India or allowed to work in Indian cricket at any level or in any capacity,” Latif said.

The BCCI did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

No Pakistan player has played in the Indian Premier League (IPL) since its inaugural season in 2008, while Indian players have not been allowed to take part in any foreign Twenty20 league, including the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

Pakistan Cricket Board has expressed its displeasure over reports that the Board of Control for Cricket in India has called multiple ICC Members and forced them to withdraw their retired cricketers from the Kashmir Premier League.

In a statement on Saturday, 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”.

“Such conduct from the BCCI is completely unacceptable, against the preamble of the Spirit of Cricket and sets a dangerous precedence, which can neither be tolerated nor ignored,” the statement added. “The PCB will raise this matter at the appropriate ICC forum and also reserves the right to take any further action that is available to us within the ICC charter.”

‘It’s all really very strange’

Taimoor Khan, director of cricket operations for KPL, told Al Jazeera that the league was aware of the threats and warnings issued to players via their agents.

“It has happened, the proof has come out and it’s all really very strange,” Khan told Al Jazeera. “There were messages sent to England’s cricketers too. We’ve been told that the players were warned they won’t be allowed to travel to India again if they take part in the KPL.”

In an earlier video message on Twitter, Khan termed the developments a sad thing for cricket all over the world”.

“We are monitoring the situation and are in talks with authorities on how to manage this. It’s a sad situation for the cricketers, especially the kids in Kashmir who were getting an opportunity to play cricket with not only the Pakistan stars but also sharing the dressing room with international players and learn from their experience.”

An email from an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) licensed agent sent to Khan, and seen by Al Jazeera, alleged that a BCCI official called up the ECB and warned that, in addition to travel restrictions, the participating cricketers will not be “allowed to work in anything Indian cricket related”.

“The good news is that Gibbs and Tillakaratne Dilshan [former Sri Lankan cricketer] will be taking part in the league,” Khan added.

“We are extremely thankful to them. They are firm on their stance and fulfilling the commitment they made even though the pressure if enormous on them from the BCCI.”

Since gaining independence in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir. Both sides claim the region in full but administer separate parts of it.

In August 2019, India revoked a special constitutional status accorded to Indian-administered Kashmir in a move Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said was aimed at increasing development and bringing the territory into the country’s administrative mainstream.

Pakistan opposed the move, accusing India of attempting to absorb the territory without bilateral resolution of the ongoing dispute.

It has also accused India of attempting to change the demographics of the Muslim-majority territory through a new domicile law, which was passed by Modi’s government last year.

Source: Al Jazeera