Shah Rukh Khan, the owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, has re-ignited the controversy over the IPL auction, saying it was “humiliating” to see none of the Pakistani players being picked up and the issue could have been handled better. His sentiment was backed by the Rajasthan Royals coach, Darren Berry, indicating the uproar over the boycott has set IPL teams introspecting.
“I think it’s actually humiliating to me as a KKR owner that this has happened,” said SRK. “We are known to invite everyone, and we should have. If there were issues, they should have been put out earlier so that things could happen respectfully.”
SRK said he and KKR captain Sourav Ganguly wanted to pick all-rounder Abdul Razzaq. But “I’m not going to be the one who is opposite from what everyone else is saying,” he said, indicating there was a consensus among franchisees to stay away from Pakistan players.
After SRK expressed dismay at IPL franchises opting to give Pakistan players the go-by in the recent auctions, other team owners contacted said that there was, indeed, a suggestion to not pick any Pakistan player, although they did not clarify whether this suggestion came from the government or the IPL authorities. Nor did they want to go on record. “Shah Rukh is a star, he can speak his mind. We are businessmen,” said one of them.
SRK, who said the entire affair had been “humiliating” for him, suggested that consensus-building could be fickle. Alluding to Shiv Sena-MNS’s opposition to Australian players, SRK said in an interview to NDTV: “There is going to be a section of people who have suddenly gotten up and have said, rightly or wrongly, ‘Australians will not be allowed to play’. So tomorrow, if we had known this, maybe even the Australians would not have been picked. These issues always come prime on your head, the stakes are very high.”
He also gave the owners’ perspective – why they could be avoiding a risky proposition. “Here is a set of people who are spending up to Rs 70, 80, 90 crore and suddenly, if you say this much to me (that a buy might be risky), I’m like, ‘Uh-oh, so should I?'”
“I am not giving an excuse and I truly believe Pakistanis are the best T20 players in the world. But somewhere down the line there is an issue and we cannot deny it. We cannot keep saying, ‘Oh, this was wrong’. Yes, maybe the way it was done was wrong, the way it is being carried out may be wrong. But you can’t keep on saying ‘Koi issue nahi hai yaar, woh aa jate’ (There isn’t any issue, they could have come). There is an issue, let’s not deny it.”
Meanwhile, Rajasthan Royals coach Darren Berry lashed out at IPL authorities for “humiliating” Pakistani players in the auction and alleged “politics and foreign affairs got in the way of cricket decisions”. Berry said his team was eyeing Umar Akmal but “something sinister was bubbling behind the scenes”, resulting in the collective snub.