Don't get fooled by the consummate businessman Shah Rukh Khan's flip-flop over the boycott of Pakistani players during the IPL auction
Ashish Sharma | January 29, 2010
His name is Khan, Shah Rukh Khan. He is a hugely successful cinema personality, a consummate businessman and generally a voice of reason on social issues. He represents a post-Independence Indian who is completely at ease with his national as much as religious identity, and proudly so. That is why, his conduct in the controversy over the snub to Pakistani cricketers during the auction for the third edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is so disappointing.
To recount, despite being a franchisee and a potential bidder Khan refrained from picking any of the Pakistani players in the fray during the auction. None of the other seven franchisees bid for any Pakistani player either, so Khan played along with the group. Nobody can possibly object to that. What is galling, though, is Khan's subsequent assertion that Pakistani players should have been picked for the forthcoming Twenty20 tournament and that he personally found the boycott of players from across the border “humiliating”.
Clearly, Khan did little to prevent this humiliation. Worse, he ended up playing on both sides of the divide. While he was party to the humiliation of Pakistani players in the first place, he also sought to distance himself from this humiliation soon thereafter.
What could have prompted this apparent change of heart? The possibilities are less than flattering to Khan. During the auction, it was perhaps prudent to ignore the Pakistani players on offer. Nationalistic and, more important, business interests dictated as much, to say nothing of the insinuated directives from certain quarters. When the Centre clarified that it had neither directed nor desired a boycott of the Pakistani players, though, it made eminent business sense for Khan to switch sides and suddenly play the liberal global citizen. His emotional fans and, don't forget, his future consumers on both sides of the border, would certainly appreciate his sentiments. Perhaps Pakistan government would take note as well and refrain from clamping down on his films. Yes, it did make eminent business sense to switch sides.
Of course, it is nobody's case that the Pakistani cricketers should have been treated so shabbily. At the same time, it is debatable whether Pakistani players should have indeed been invited to play in India while Pakistan-trained terrorists continue to wage a war in Kashmir and elsewhere in India. The Lalit Modi-run Indian Premier League should have handled it all more gracefully. None of that, however, lends credence to Khan's double role in this poorly-directed episode.
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