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Sad day for Indian cricket

By Chris Morris
BBC News, Delhi

Rajasthan IPL team members
The first tournament was a hit in India (Photos: Indian Express)

In the end the Indian government decided it simply could not take the risk.

Holding the second season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) at the same time as the country's general elections was too complicated and too risky.

Over the course of a month, tens of thousands of paramilitary and police personnel have to be on duty for the elections - a massive logistical exercise.

And in the aftermath of the attack of the Sri Lankan cricket team in the Pakistani city of Lahore, no-one could afford to take security for the IPL for granted.

However awkward this decision seems to be, the potential alternative could have been worse.

If there had been an attack on an IPL match - and if security was shown to be deficient - that would have been even more damaging for India's image abroad.

Locally, it could have cost the government the general elections.

Potential pitfalls

So with time running out, the Indian cricket authorities have decided that they have no option but to move the Twenty20 tournament abroad - lock, stock and barrel.

Cricket fans in India reflect on IPL's move abroad for the season

South Africa and England have emerged as the most likely destinations, but discussions on the details could take a few days.

There are potential pitfalls everywhere: the weather, the availability of suitable grounds, the cost of moving the entire tournament, and of course security again - all will be factors in the decision.

But the IPL will want to settle on a new destination as quickly as possible.

The tournament is due to begin in less than three weeks' time.

The main thing the IPL wants to ensure is that the schedule remains exactly the same.

So matches will begin in the same prime time slots for the huge television audiences the IPL attracts in India.

Tens of millions of pounds of television, sponsorship and advertising money are at stake.

Commonwealth Games

During the tournament's inaugural season last year, the IPL swept the ratings in India.

A shattered windscreen at the scene of the attack in Lahore (03/03/2009)
The attack in Lahore showed the potential security risk

Other programmes were blown away as audiences turned in droves to what proved to be an intoxicating mix of cricket, Bollywood, drama and razzmatazz.

Now the IPL faces the enormous task of recreating the same sense of excitement - from abroad.

On TV, perhaps, it can be done.

But franchises like the Delhi Daredevils and the Kolkata Knight Riders, which would have been hoping to build brand loyalty among their local audiences, will be bitterly disappointed.

That will now have to wait for another year.

The IPL is determined that this move is only a temporary one, and the organisers want to retain a strong sense that this is an "Indian" event.

Next year, the Commonwealth Games will be held here in Delhi.

There will be no general election, and Indian and Commonwealth officials have already been stressing over the last few days that there is absolutely no question of moving the games.

But this is a sad day for Indian sport.

And it is obviously a serious blow to the Indian cricket authorities, not least financially, however brave a face they try to put on it.



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