Dear Mr Lalit Modi,
I am a great admirer of you and the way you have put the Indian Premier League on the top rung of world sporting events. The carping critics, and there are many, are shocked that cricketers are being offered huge monetary incentives or are 'bought' and 'sold'. We Indians are hypocrites when it comes to money matters. Laxmi is the most favoured deity in all households and yet we claim to not want her.
The IPL has done one thing for certain; it has broadened the spread of cricket. Earlier, with just one national team, the opportunity was limited. But now with so many teams, players from small towns and budding talents get their due.
But what impressed me most was the kind of spirit it has generated. So here we have M S Dhoni from Jharkhand captaining a Chennai team and becoming hugely popular there. One also sees Harbhajan Singh becoming a Mumabikar with the Mumbai Indians. The IPL has contributed tremendously to national integration. For despite the nostalgia for the halcyon days of hockey as a 'national game' the fact today is cricket is our national game. It is here I feel that IPL can contribute positively by involving north-eastern India and help it join the national mainstream
I spent good month in the north-eastern states last year, meeting a cross section of people. The dominant impression was that the people of the north-east are yearning to join the national mainstream. Any one who has travelled to those parts of our country will testify to the fact that the people of north-east are some of the friendliest.
Insurgency is long over there and in many respects, Kohima or Aizwal are far more peaceful and safer than Delhi, Hyderabad or Pune. To illustrate the sea change in the area, one instance sticks in mind. Captain Neikezhakuo Kenguriise, who hailed from Kohima in Nagaland, was awarded Mahavir Chakra during the Kargil border conflict. Captain Neikezhakuo led his platoon to Tololing ridgeline overlooking an important army formation, ejected Pakistani regulars and re-captured the ridgeline in a five-day-long battle. But he lost his life in mortar shelling on June 18, 1999. When his last rites took place in Kohima, virtually the entire town turned up. Many newspapers commented that more people turned up for his funeral than even for the last journey of the legendary Naga leader Z A Phizo.
Unfortunately such is the ignorance of mainstream media and rest of the country that these landmark events are seldom noted or reported. You, Mr Modi have the chance to correct this. Why can't the north-east have a team in IPL-4? Why can't we have some IPL matches played at Kohima, Imphal, Aizwal, Dibrugarh and Tezpur besides Guwahati. All these places are connected by air and I am sure the state governments will be more than willing to build stadia. The media exposure that the IPL will give to these beautiful places and people will boost tourism, economy and promote national integration.
Currently many businessmen pay hefty sums to insurgents in the noth-east. Surely they can spare some of it to sponsor a cricket team! Also some time ago the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the International Cricket Council talked of spreading cricket to China.
Then why not to our own north-east? Given the sterling sportspersons that these areas have produced I am sure the next Sachin Tendulkar could well be from Manipur!
As to the so called insurgency in the north-east, a ruling party politician had once confided to me that the north-east states themselves make sure that there is some insurgency is kept on otherwise as he said, "Delhi will forget that the north-east ever exits!" Sad but true.
Mr Modi, here is your chance to make a lasting contribution to nation building that would be remembered by posterity.
Just a thought, I think it is time you thought of making all teams play each other only once and not twice as is the practice now. One felt that too many matches would set in the law of diminishing return as far as public interest is concerned. By doing this you could induct more teams and variety.
I know it is a daunting task to plan for this at short notice, but if you could do the miracle of shifting the IPL -2 to South Africa last year at short notice, surely you can do this!
Colonel Anil Athale (retired) is Chhatrapati Shivaji Fellow studying internal security.