Security fears hit India’s IPL

New Delhi, March 4:

Indian Premier League (IPL) bosses battled to save their multi-million-dollar tournament today after a government call for it to be postponed for security reasons.

In the wake of Tuesday’s deadly assault on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan, questions are also being asked about whether the top world players signed up by the IPL will be prepared to play in South Asia.

The Mumbai siege in late November dealt a massive blow to India’s security image, and fears over safety across the region will have been exacerbated by the gun and grenade attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore. Home minister P Chidambaram said on Tuesday said he would be “stretched” to provide adequate security to the popular Twenty20 tournament, as it clashes with general elections in April and May. “Since the election dates are unalterable, I have asked to find out if the dates of the IPL can be rescheduled,” Chidambaram said.

The IPL is due to be played across 10 cities in India from April 10 to May 24. The parliamentary elections will be held in five phases between April 16 and May 13. Chidambaram’s comments came hours after the attack on the Sri Lankan team which injured seven players and an assistant coach and killed eight Pakistanis — six of them policemen escorting their convoy.

IPL officials insisted the tournament will not be postponed, citing a lack of alternative dates in an already crowded calendar, but agreed to adjustments so matches do not clash with voting in a particular city. “There is no chance of postponing the IPL,” tournament commissioner Lalit Modi said.

There are also concerns on whether international players will be willing to set foot on the sub-continent following the Lahore attack. The biggest draw this year would be the first IPL appearance for England stars Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, who were signed for a record $1.55 million each per year.

The Mumbai attacks last November has already forced the postponement by a year of the IPL-backed Champions League, featuring the top Twenty20 teams from Australia,

South Africa, England, Pakistan and India.