DUBAI //Judging by the sort of numbers being quoted for new franchises by its commissioner, Lalit Modi, the global appeal and lustre of the Indian Premier League (IPL) shows no sign of abating. A base price of US$225 million (Dh826m) was set when the global tendering process for the next two IPL franchises officially begun yesterday.
Yet, while the cash continues to flow, the next campaign for the 20-over league will certainly be a poorer place for the absence of the likes of Abdul Razzaq and his Pakistan colleagues. The spectators who witnessed Razzaq's remarkable innings at Dubai Sports City on Saturday night should savour the memory. He is unlikely to be seen near any significant cricket action any time soon. While the game's top players will spend the coming months counting their money, Pakistan's finest will be watching on enviously after being snubbed at the most recent player auctions.
"The IPL issues are all finished now - we will miss the IPL," confirmed Razzaq, 30, following his 46 not out from 18 balls against England. Razzaq reportedly had an offer on the table from the Kolkata Knight Riders, the franchise of Shah Rukh Khan, the Bollywood actor who was vocal in his condemnation of the treatment of the Pakistani players. The contract was all ready to be signed, only for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to rule against Razzaq. The board said they were insulted by the way their leading players had been treated in the latest round of bidding for the franchises. All their lots were left unsold.
The franchises made noises about protesting, but the PCB revoked the no-objection certificates they had previously issued to their players anyway, thus barring them from playing. While this year's IPL will be worse off for their absence, the Pakistan players can at least focus all their attentions on being ready for their World Twenty20 title defence, starting at the end of April. "We are professional cricketers, so whatever our board and our government decide, we have to follow that," said Shoaib Malik, the all-rounder who was Pakistan's captain for the series against England at the weekend. "All of our priorities lie in playing for our country. We love doing well for our country."
Malik insisted that Pakistan's spirits had been lifted by Razzaq's heroics against England, following a woeful recent run. Razzaq himself accepted his side will now be in a better frame of mind going to the Caribbean for their trophy defence, but does not think the format's most successful side can be considered favourites. "I think in Twenty20 cricket, no side can be considered the favourite," he added. "It is all about what happens on the day, and if a team performs well, that team will win."