File photo of Anirban Lahiri.© AFP
The breakaway LIV series can do for golf what the IPL did for cricket, India’s top player Anirban Lahiri has said after joining the lucrative Saudi-backed tour. The new circuit has sparked a bitter split that threatens to tear golf apart and sparked accusations of “sportswashing” of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. Saudi Arabia has drawn major criticsm over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and for cracking down on rights activists, many of whom have been jailed or banned from travel.
Despite that and the vast financial rewards being offered to lure players away from the more established US PGA and European tours, the defecting Lahiri said that LIV would benefit others along the way too.
Lahiri, runner-up at the Players Championship in March, was one of six new recruits — along with world number two Cameron Smith — announced on Tuesday for the LIV Golf Invitational Boston this week.
“I look at the Indian Premier League and T20. When it started, I remember the almost vehement opposition it received,” Lahiri told Wednesday’s Hindustan Times.
“But it had the potential of changing the way we consumed cricket.
“Look at it now. The Board of Control for Cricket in India is laughing all the way to the bank and so are the players. The broadcasters are delighted because they get off-the-chart ratings,” he said.
Lahiri said that he was a “big fan” of traditional, five-day Test cricket but that the shorter Twenty20 format that the IPL pioneered was “so much fun”.
“LIV can be the IPL of golf,” the 35-year-old world number 92 said.
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