Bollywood stars Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta have added a new twist to the IPL affair by claiming that they were threatened into snubbing Pakistani cricketers at the auction. According to a report by an Australian publication ‘The Age’, Shetty told India’s ‘Mid-Day’ that threats were made against her team and any subsequent Pakistan cricketer picked by her franchise.
“You must look at it pragmatically and see that we have had these people who are constantly threatening,” Rajasthan co-owner Shetty told Indian publication Mid-Day. “It’s not something we hold against the Pakistani players.
“We completely understand the situation but as franchise owners are we willing to take that risk? If something happens to the Pakistani players, the onus lies on us and who is going to take responsibility for a situation like that?
“When we said ‘availability’, we wanted complete assurance that those players would be available in the country and that we were going to be able to provide security for them,” she added.
Preity Zinta, co-owner of Kings XI Punjab, reportedly told an Indian-language TV channel: “We would have loved to have the T20 world champions in our teams to bring real joy to the extravaganza but what can we do if we have certain threats about not [only] our own safety but the safety of the Pakistani players too, with no official quarter assuring us of foolproof security of players during the tournament?”
The report comes just as Darren Berry, former Australia first-class cricketer and a member of the Rajasthan Royals coaching staff, revealed that teenage Pakistani batsman Umar Akmal was the Royals top pick for this season’s IPL auction and was surprised at the omission. He wrote:
“After spending the past two weeks in India preparing for the Indian Premier League in March, I am staggered at the recent treatment of the Pakistan players. I agree with Shahid Afridi that he and his countrymen were humiliated in the IPL auction in Mumbai last week. …I do not have all the information – and possibly never will as this was a very delicate issue played out behind the scenes. However, I do know – due to my coaching role with the Rajasthan Royals – that a few weeks ago Umar Akmal was No. 1 priority on the Royals’ shopping list. All of a sudden he was not available. As the auction unfolded live on TV in India, it became evident that it wasn’t just Umar Akmal who was in the no-go zone, but all of the Pakistan players. The press in India asked plenty of questions but got few straight answers.”