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IPL owners turn on media over row over Pakistan players

Pakistani cricket fans burn and effigy of IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi in Lahore on 20 Jan 2010
Pakistani protesters have burnt IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi's effigies

Owners of Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket teams have denied accusations of bias after no IPL team took any of the 11 Pakistani players on offer.

Team owners and the IPL chairman accused the media of exaggerating the issue.

Rajasthan Royals owner Shilpa Shetty said she wanted the media and public to "respond to the situation responsibly."

Pakistani ministers and cricketers have said that the outcome of the auction is an insult.

Some have even called for a boycott of sporting ties with India.

At an auction earlier this week no Pakistani players were chosen to play in the IPL Twenty20 tournament in March amid fears they may not get visas.

A diplomatic row has broken out between India and Pakistani over the issue.

But the Indian government says the decision not to pick any Pakistani players was made by the IPL teams, and was not politically inspired.

'Lunatic fringes'

"I request the media and people in India and Pakistan to respond to the situation responsibly," Ms Shetty told a press conference in Mumbai (Bombay).

"We are a cricket loving country and so is Pakistan. Sport is above everything. Were we in a position to provide security [to the players]?," she said emphasising security concerns because of "certain political parties and lunatic fringes".

Shilpa Shetty, Lalit Modi and Preity Zinta
IPL team owners say too much is being read into the issue

"We did not want to take onus for players security. We were the losers. We have lost greatest players," she said.

"Teams have made their decisions depending on player availability. Their reasons are understandable looking at the current situation."

IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi said the controversy was media-generated.

"You have to respect what owners want. You're making a story out of this... You're damaging an already fragile relationship. Some of my best colleagues and friends are in Pakistan," Mr Modi told reporters.

Following the IPL auction and the perceived "insult" of Pakistani players, protesters in Pakistan have burnt effigies of Mr Modi and there have been calls for an apology.

"Why should we get into apologising or not apologising?" Mr Modi asked.

The perceived IPL snub to Pakistani cricketers comes at a time when relations between India and Pakistan are already strained.

India has blamed the deadly 2008 attack on Mumbai (Bombay) on Pakistan-based militants. At least 174 people were killed, nine of them gunmen.



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