Former England spinner Monty Panesar has pulled out of the Kashmir Premier League (KPL) 2021, citing “political pressure” and “advice” from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), stating that all cricketers who participate in the Kashmir tournament would not be allowed to play in India in the future, it emerged on Monday.
Talking to YouTube channel Sports Yaari, Panesar said the BCCI had “advised” him that if he played in KPL 2021, the “consequences” of his decision could include not being granted a visa to India in the future and not being allowed to work in the country.
“[It is] the start of my sports journalist career, I want to do broadcasting and commentary all over the world. Whatever opportunity or work I get in India, I want to do that. I cannot jeopardise it,” the spinner said, adding that he could “face difficulty” after taking such a big decision.
Cricket is “very big” in India and the country has a “strong” cricket board — BCCI — along with a lot of opportunities, Panesar said, while terming participation in the KPL “too risky a decision” for him.
He also addressed the matter on Twitter, saying he had decided not to participate in the tournament because of the “political tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir issues”.
“I don’t want to be in the middle of this, it would make me feel uncomfortable,” he added.
Shoaib Akhtar to be KPL ‘peace ambassador’
Meanwhile, former fast-bowler Shoaib Akhtar announced his decision to become a “peace ambassador” for the Kashmir tournament.
“Why such a fuss between [Kashmir Premier League] & BCCI. It’s about building bridges and promoting peace,” he said.
Gibbs’ allegations and BCCI’s response
Panesar’s decision to pull out surfaced days after another international cricketer — South Africa batsman Herschelle Gibbs — accused the BCCI of attempting to prevent him from participating in the inaugural KPL. He added that the BCCI had also threatened of denying him entry in India if he participated in the league.
“Completely unnecessary of the BCCI to bring their political agenda with Pakistan into the equation and trying to prevent me [from] playing in the KPL,” the Proteas great said. “[They are] also threatening me saying they won’t allow me entry into India for any cricket-related work. Ludicrous,” he tweeted.
Reacting to the development, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) issued a statement, saying it would “raise this matter at the appropriate ICC (International Cricket Council) forum and also reserves the right to take any further action that is available to us within the ICC charter”.
The PCB expressed the belief that the BCCI had “breached international norms and the spirit of the gentleman’s game” through its interference in the internal affairs of ICC members.
Later on Saturday, the BCCI responded to Gibbs’ allegations and the PCB, saying that the Indian board was “well within its rights” to do anything in the best interest of its cricketing ecosystem.
A BCCI official told Indian news agency ANI: “While one can neither confirm or deny the veracity of the statement made by a former player who has figured in a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) investigation into match-fixing earlier, the PCB must understand that even if Gibb’s statement is assumed to be true, the BCCI would be well within their rights to take decisions with respect to the cricketing ecosystem in India.
“The fact that the Indian cricketing ecosystem is the most sought after for cricketing opportunities globally, should not be envied by the PCB.”
The BCCI official said the PCB was “confused” and that allowing or disallowing anyone from playing cricket in India was “purely an internal matter” and no different than the restriction on Pakistani-origin players from participating in the Indian Premier League.
The Kashmir Premier League T20 2021 is the first edition of the KPL. Of the six teams playing in the inaugural season, five teams are from Azad Kashmir while the sixth one is from outside the region.
The league is the second T20 competition arranged by the PCB after the Pakistan Super League and is set to play from August 6-17 in Muzaffarabad.