Having won the opening match of IPL 2018 that turned out to be a nailbiter, all eyes will be on Chennai Supers Kings (CSK) when they take on Kolkata Kinght Riders (KKR) at Chepauk Stadium in Chennai. This is the first match for CSK on their home turf after coming back from a two-year suspension following a spot-fixing scandal. The stadium is scheduled to host seven matches in this edition of IPL.
However, there are unprecedented guidelines issued by the stadium authority for this match. The spectators are not allowed to carry any flags or banners, firecrackers, inflammable materials, laptops, phones, electronic devices. 4,000 police personnel have been deployed at the stadium.
Perhaps you are wondering why such measures are being taken. Here is the answer to your curiosity — the intensified protest in the state by the Tamil group to set up Cauvery Management Board (CMB).
The delay by Central government to set up CMB in wake of Karnataka Assembly elections in May has upset Tamil political leaders. According to them, Cauvery Board Management should be constituted urgently, so the repeated negotiations with Karnataka over water sharing are done away with.
Interestingly, IPL found itself caught in the storm of Cauvery protest. Actor-politician Rajnikanth suggested CSK players and the spectators to wear black armbands, to protest the Centre's delay in setting up the CMB. Several Tamil political outfits and leaders have demanded a full ban on IPL matches in Tamil Nadu.
Rajinikanth said, "The Centre will be subjected to the anger of the Tamil people if it does not form the Cauvery management board. If the IPL games in the city cannot be banned, CSK players must at least wear black badges during the matches as a form of protest."
Speaking on the same, former Indian cricketer Ashok Malhotra said, “Why the team (CSK) should wear black armbands when most of its players do not belong to Chennai. It will be absolutely fine if the CSK management body would wear those armbands. It is wrong to impose the decision on players like this. It will be nice if IPL is not played this time in Chennai, understanding the plight of the farmers due to severe shortage of water.”
Lok Sabha MP and former cricketer Kirti Azad was vocal about Cauvery issue and the sentiments attached to it. He called Cauvery issue a sensitive one and said, “Water demands are associated with basic needs, and we’re humans first, we should not ignore such a problem. Besides, not enough has been done on this decades-old issue.” But Azad also said that cricket has nothing to do with the issue, so the game should carry on peacefully. “Politicians should resolve the matter, IPL is not the appropriate body to take any decision on this, hence IPL should be kept away from this whole issue,” he added.
Lawyer and columnist Sanjay Pinto said, "Expressing solidarity with a cause in a peaceful manner is fine. Cricket is more than a sport in India. Cauvery is an emotive issue and if cricketers voluntarily wear armbands to empathise with farmers who are suffering, in addition to the brand logos they display, what's wrong with that?"
Senior sports analyst Boria Majumdar said that this was not the first time when sportsmen are involved into a political controversy. This trend is evident in the history of sports. Majumdar quoted the example of John Carlos and Tommie Smith who raised the black salute at the 1968 Olympics game.
He said, “I am more anxious than excited for today’s match because strong public sentiments are attached with the Cauvery water issue and there seems a possibility that this ongoing silent protest may turn violent if people lose control. In such a situation a stampede can also take place and people can get seriously injured. As a result we need to be extra cautious because violence at the Chepauk will taint the IPL forever.”
A media manager of one of the IPL teams said that decision of matches to be played or not played are decided only by the BCCI and no one has the authority to intervene on the matter.
This is not the first time IPL has faced political outrage, in the past also, parties had demanded ban on IPL matches for their own vested interest. In 2016, in IPL vs drought relief case in Maharashtra, BCCI was painted as the main villain on the issue over ‘wastage’ of water for maintenance of cricket pitches when several regions of Maharashtra were suffering from drought.
Another political controversy IPL got embroiled into was in the year 2013 when J Jayalalithaa government asked for ban of Sri Lankan players from the IPL matches, giving the reason that Tamilians were disturbed by the human right violation and killings of Tamil ethnic group in Sri Lanka.
It will be interesting to see how CSK gets away from this controversy after its two-year long ban from the IPL. CSK has remained a consistent performer in all IPL season, it had played. The team has lifted the IPL trophy twice, in 2010 and 2011.