The former Pakistan skipper Wasim Akram, and a regular ESPN Star Sports (ESS) commentator, will reportedly not be commentating during the ESS broadcast Champions League Twenty20, beginning in India this week, because he is Pakistani.
Currently he is part of ESPN’s commentary panel for the ongoing Champions Trophy in South Africa.
Sources close to the former Pakistani paceman though, said he was upset about what had transpired.
On Sunday, the popular Pakistani Urdu daily, Jang, claimed that Akram had been “sacked from the commentary panel “on the advice of the Indian government and the BCCI”.
While the Board of Control for Cricket in India Chief Administrative Officer Ratnakar Shetty said he was “not aware” of the issue, Champions League CEO Sunder Raman said, “The list of commentators that ESPN Star Sports sent us for confirmation didn’t have Akram’s name”.
Raman, however, offered an explanation for Akram’s absence. “The Champions League doesn’t feature any team from Pakistan. So, there was no need to have Akram in the commentary team.”
Akram’s not coming though, is in tune with Indian government instructions to not have Pakistanis associate with the Indian Premier League/Champions League in any way.
While ESS refused to comment on the record, sources said his name had not been put on the panel because of “security reasons”. “Since India-Pakistan ties are far from normal, the broadcasters did not want to risk suggesting his name, lest he was denied an Indian visa,” said a source.
The curious part about all this is that Akram was here in Delhi last month for a Champions Trophy-related event and for a few days in August as a bowling consultant with the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association.
“He came through an event management company and did not have any visa problems and he should be here again with us soon,” DDCA general secretary SK Bansal told the Hindustan Times.