An Indian event management company has pulled out as the official producer of Pakistan’s T20 cricket league in the wake of a deadly suicide attack on Indian paramilitary forces in Indian-administered Kashmir, which has escalated tensions between the two South Asian neighbours.
The Pakistan Cricket Board said the announcement of a new live broadcast partner after IMG Reliance’s split from the Pakistan Super League, which kicked off in the United Arab Emirates last week, will be announced on Monday.
DSport, the official broadcaster of the PSL in India, will no longer show the matches, local media reported.
Digital coverage of the tournament has also been blocked in the country, according to a PCB statement on Sunday.
“The PCB has noted the recent turn of events and expresses its extreme disappointment as we have always believed and emphasised that sports and politics should be kept separate,” Wasim Khan, the board’s managing director, said in a statement.
“History tells us that sports, particularly cricket, have always played a key role in building bridges between people and countries,” he added while vowing to take the issue up with BCCI – India’s cricket board – and the International Cricket Council.
Mumbai-based IMG Reliance agreed to produce PSL’s television coverage last month after the PCB sold the tournament’s broadcasting rights for $36m.
The deal was set to run until the end of the 2022 season, Espncrininfo reported. But in a letter addressed to the PCB on Sunday, IMG Reliance cut short its partnership, citing the “deeply regrettable deaths of Indian soldiers” in Pulwama.
At least 42 Indian troops were killed in the restive region on Thursday, the deadliest attack in nearly 30 years of the Kashmir conflict.
Pakistan-based rebel group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for the devastating bombing.
Pakistan has denied any involvement and warned India against linking it to the attack.
Politics and differences over Muslim-majority Kashmir, which India and Pakistan rule in part but claim in full as their own, have already curtailed the two countries’ sporting ties.
Please don't watch PSL in India pic.twitter.com/3iwid3mGGX
— Khushal Punjabi (@khushal_punjabi) February 18, 2019
The Pakistani cricket team has not toured India for a bilateral series since January 2013 and has not hosted the Indian side for a series since 2006. But the two have faced each other in international tournaments on neutral venues – the latest meeting being at the Asia Cup in the UAE in September.
As part of BCCI’s policy, no Indian players are allowed to take part in any foreign T20 league outside its own Indian Premier League.
“Unfortunately, denying India cricket fans the right to follow PSL by blocking all digital coverage as well as covering or removing portrait of former Pakistan cricket captain and Prime Minister Imran Khan and other legendary cricketers from one of the most historic cricket clubs and venues are highly regrettable actions,” said PCB’s Khan.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since gaining independence from British rule in 1947. Two of them have been over Kashmir.
India has accused Pakistan of backing separatist groups in Kashmir – a charge Pakistan denies.
The PSL final will be played in Karachi on March 17.