No conspiracy, asserts Modi

Shilpa says she doesnt owe any explanation on Pak players exclusion
Last Updated 22 January 2010, 16:58 IST

He also announced the shifting of the IPL's opening match on March 12 from Hyderabad to Mumbai owing to political unrest in Andhra Pradesh over the Telangana issue.

"The media is biased. No one talks about players from countries like Australia, Canada and Zimbabwe not being picked in the auction. There was no preconceived conspiracy to leave Pakistani players," Modi said at a news conference here.

None of the 11 Pakistani players found any takers at the glitzy IPL III auction, which has since snowballed into a major diplomatic row between India and Pakistan.

Modi got strong backing from Bollywood actress and Rajasthan Royals co-owner Shilpa Shetty, who also denied any conspiracy against players from Pakistan. It was ‘security issues’ that clinched matters, it now appears.

"I don't owe any explanation. We are not a small country and the decision was not a contrived one. There is nothing bigger than cricket but everything is getting murky," Shetty said.

"I am very hurt. There have been hate mails also. We have lost some of the greatest players in the world, but why doesn't anyone talk about Australia, England and so many others who were not picked in the auction?" she asked.

"Every day, there were threats from one political party or another, so we had to decide... We couldn't provide security to Pakistani players," she clarified.

She was indirectly referring to Shiv Sena's call to ban Australian players playing in Mumbai after attacks on Indians Down Under, and its traditional opposition to Pakistani players, especially after the 26/11 terror attacks.

Modi claimed he did not influence any of franchises' picks at the auction and there was never any intent to humiliate the Pakistani cricketers, as is being alleged across the border.

"The IPL has put its best foot forward at the auction. It is up to the team owners to decide whom to take. They have different reasons," he said.

“I am not a super selector and I don't want that job. The way you people are writing, you are damaging the already fragile relationship (between India and Pakistan) further. There is no reason we would want to humiliate Pakistani players," he added.
Opening match shifted

The political unrest in AP has forced the shifting of the inaugural ceremony and the opening match of IPL III, between Deccan Chargers and Kolkata Knight Riders, from Hyderabad to Mumbai.

"The opening game, the opening ceremony and the opening gala dinner (on March 11) are very important for us. People from all over the world are coming and we are going to make sure that everything is in order. We don't want to take any chances," Modi said.
"There are no changes to other matches, everything looks fine. We have worked it out with franchises and the teams and decided that match would be held in Mumbai," he added.

Modi added that Delhi would remain an IPL venue despite the one-year international ban after the pitch was deemed ‘unfit’ by the ICC on Thursday.

The IPL boss said the auction for two new teams would be held next month. “We are hoping that by the first week of February, we will have two new teams auctioned,” he said.

The IPL signed up television channel ‘Colors’ as its entertainment partner and ‘Red Partners’ as its official food concessionaire.

The IPL chairman said the annual IPL awards function would be held on April 23 in Mumbai.

(Published 22 January 2010, 09:07 IST)

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