ABU DHABI // Kapil Dev, India's World Cup winning captain, is confident any lingering security fears will be allayed when the third season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) starts today amid a fanfare. The tournament, which has been described by Shane Warne as the fourth biggest sport event in terms of value, was moved to South Africa last year because parliamentary elections left the Indian Police Force short of personnel to allocate to the Twenty20 matches.
The build-up to the 45-day event, which starts tonight with a match between Deccan Chargers and Kolkata Knight Riders, has again been dominated by fears over security. An independent report, commissioned by players' associations from Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa, highlighted "serious concerns" and there had been talk of player withdrawals. However, the welfare of the players has been guaranteed and the 60-match event will start at 6.30 in Mumbai this evening.
"I wish them luck," said Kapil who was voted his country's leading player of the 20th Century. "I hope it turns out to be good. Cricketers all around the world want to see how this tournament progresses, not only from a security point of view. If my country is saying that security is OK then it's OK. "South Africa were there recently and everything was fine. Mishaps can take place in any part of the world. You can't stop sport from taking place because of the fear of something happening.
"I think we have to be stronger in our minds and make sure that we don't have to run away. If threats come in and we stop sporting events because of them then sports will be finished and those negative people will win against the good people who are trying to do something positive." Kapil, visiting Abu Dhabi in his capacity as a Laureus Academy member for this week's World Sports Awards, believes the revolutionary creation of the IPL two years ago will benefit all aspects of the game but will never replace Test match cricket as the main attraction.
"Test cricket is always the pinnacle of the game and T20 will never prevent that," he said. "This is a new-born baby and everybody loves it. I hope T20 gives some good things to other forms of cricket. It may also give some negative things but that's cricket." @Email:email@example.com