World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga blasted Tamil Nadu politicians on Sunday for their calls to keep Sri Lankan players out of the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches in Chennai.
Speaking to NDTV's Barkha Dutt, the former Sri Lankan cricketer said while he believes sports and politics should be kept separate, it is not the case in reality. "Politics and sports should be kept separate. It has been for the last so many years. But it happens every time India goes into general elections, this is the way Tamil Nadu politicians have been behaving. They are more keen on getting extra votes, try to fool the public. They should not drag sports into their political benefits. (But) that is what is happening today in south India," he said.
There have been protests all over Tamil Nadu for days now, with all major political parties and students demanding that the Centre take a strong stand against Sri Lanka for its alleged war crimes in the final months of the civil war that ended when defence forces crushed the separatist Tamil Tigers in May 2009.
After Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa wrote to the Prime Minister saying that no Indian Premier League (IPL) matches would be allowed in the state capital if they involved Sri Lankan players, umpires or officials, the IPL governing council decided at a hurried tele-conference with team owners that Sri Lankan cricketers will not play IPL matches in Chennai.
Ranatunga though continues to maintain that it is the Sri Lankan players who should have refused to participate in IPL. "It's a sad day for all of us. It's a sad day for cricket. If our players are not accepted in Tamil Nadu, why are they going to play in the other part of India? This (IPL) is a franchise organized private tournament. They (Sri Lankan players) should think of their honour and dignity and think of the country," he said.
A day earlier, Sri Lanka's T20 skipper Dinesh Chandimal had, according to reports, refused an offer to participate in IPL. This despite 13 of his national teammates participating in the tournament which starts April 3.