Golf: LIV can be like cricket's IPL, India's top player Lahiri says after switching tours

Anirban Lahiri compared the response to the LIV series to the "vehement opposition" the IPL received when it started. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - The breakaway LIV series can do for golf what the Indian Premier League (IPL) did for cricket, India's top golfer Anirban Lahiri has said after joining the lucrative Saudi-backed tour.

The new circuit has sparked a bitter split that threatens to tear the sport apart and sparked accusations of "sportswashing" of Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

The Middle Eastern kingdom has drawn major criticism 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.

The 35-year-old, runner-up at the Players Championship in March, was one of six recruits - along with world No. 2 Cameron Smith - announced on Tuesday (Aug 30) 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," the world No. 92 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," he said.

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