| A policeman on guard at the residence of Rahul Dravid in Bangalore on Tuesday. (PTI)
Feb. 18: Cricket cut across party politics in the Lok Sabha today as members united in condemning the fan fury at India’s World Cup performance and asked the government to provide protection to the players and their families.
After a 10-minute impromptu discussion on the issue, Speaker Manohar Joshi directed the government to ensure that the players are given “fullest protection” so that they could play without worry and perform better in the remaining matches.
Disapproving of the attack on Mohammed Kaif’s houses, Joshi said: “They should be given fullest protection so that their minds are free and they do better. We wish them good luck.”
This message would be sent to the Indian team, the Speaker added, when CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee pointed out that a message should be sent to the players that the entire nation was with them.
The matter was raised during zero hour by Congress chief whip Priya Ranjan Das Munshi. He said Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag had played great knocks in the past and should not be attacked merely because they had failed in the last two or three matches.
Blackening the front wall of Kaif’s house and burning of the players’ effigies and posters was “unfortunate”, Das Munshi said. “Instead, we should collectively pray for victory in the remaining matches.”
“We should have full faith in our team and we should not bring them to the dock,” he added, asking the government to take immediate steps to protect the cricketers and their families.
Das Munshi was supported by his party colleague Santosh Mohan Deb, Chatterjee, Samajwadi Party member Ramji Lal Suman and Mohan Rawale of the Shiv Sena. Rawale said cricket was a game of luck. “Our team is strong and what they need is moral support from us.” Dev said a message “cheer up boys” should be sent to the players.
BJP member and former Test player Kirti Azad, one of the national selectors, said India could still make it to the Super Six stage. Although Azad, who was a member of the Indian team that won the 1983 World Cup, slammed the team’s dismal batting against Australia, he stressed that nothing should be done to put the players under pressure.
But how volatile can fans be was reflected in the security arrangements in the hometowns of the stars ahead of tomorrow’s crucial tie against Zimbabwe. In Calcutta, police beefed up security around Sourav’s Behala residence. Superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, D.K. Ganguly said eight commandos have been posted inside the house while half-a-dozen policemen in mufti would patrol the lane leading to the house.
A patrol car from Thakurpukur police station would be parked 100 yards away from the house from tomorrow morning. “We will restrict movement of outsiders around Ganguly’s house,” Ganguly said. “Police would not allow people to gather near his house and along the lane leading to the house. Only bona fide local residents would be allowed to move in and out of the lane.”
Mumbai police sounded more confident. Tendulkar’s house, which always has policemen posted, does not need extra security, they said. “We didn’t think it necessary to add to the eight or 10 policemen who are on duty there,” said the duty officer of Bandra police station, under whose jurisdiction the Tendulkar residence falls.
Security has been tightened, too, around Rahul Dravid, Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble’s homes in Bangalore. Karnataka home minister Mallikarjuna Kharge said the state government has decided to provide “suitable security” as a “precautionary measure” in view of the attack on Mohammed Kaif’s house by angry fans in Allahabad.
A top police official, however, said the force did not apprehend “any such attack” in Karnataka as the “public holds the cricketers in high esteem and have total trust on the integrity of Dravid, Srinath and Kumble”.
Such confidence was missing in Allahabad, where furious fans used Mobil oil and black paint to smear Kaif’s house following India’s drubbing by Australia. The Uttar Pradesh government has provided special security to the player’s family.
“There has been no repetition of the incident and we are providing round-the-clock protection to Kaif’s family,” Allahabad superintendent Vijay Kumar said.