Lahore: Be it a greying groundstaff at the Gaddafi or a savvy manager at the Pearl Continental hotel, it's not unsual to be asked from one or the other: 'Aap hamari team ki hifazat to karenge''
Obviously, the Shiv Sena's recent attempts at mischief in Mohali and Kanpur received wide publicity and, so, some concern in the lead-up to Pakistan's India tour beginning Monday is understandable.
[The Sena, it may be recalled, vandalised the Wankhede pitch in 1991 and repeated that act at the Kotla, in 1999. Then, too, the protest was against cricket ties with Pakistan.]
However, it's not just concern. Speaking to The Telegraph, Thursday morning (before returning to Islamabad), Imran Khan said the Sena's threat left him 'deeply disappointed.'
Mohali hosts the first Test, from March 8, while Kanpur stages the fifth (penultimate) ODI on April 15.
A World Cup-winning captain and now a Member of the National Assembly, Imran remarked: 'I can't understand why the Sena made the threat, especially as India's tour of Pakistan last year went off beautifully...
'It makes me believe the fanatics in India are even more of extremists than those in Pakistan... Of course, every society will have moderates and fanatics, but there must be a reason for the latter to talk of disruptions...'
He added: 'Some in India, perhaps, need to be reminded that not one extremist (in Pakistan) opposed last year's Revival Series. Rather, the hospitality shown by every Pakistani across the country was exemplary.'
Asked whether Pakistan should have made a statement by agreeing to play a Test in Ahmedabad, Imran replied: 'But, why be provocative' That city is known to be communally sensitive and, in any case, there were those riots three years ago...'
He admitted being 'surprised' that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) initially insisted on Ahmedabad as one of the three Test venues.
'Look, last year, we wanted Karachi to host a Test but India refused... We didn't make it an issue, even though Karachi isn't communally sensitive... The BCCI ought not to have pressed,' Imran maintained.
Eventually, the Pakistan Cricket Board agreed to play an ODI in Ahmedabad.
Incidentally, as of now, it's unlikely that Imran is going to be in India during the Test and ODI series: For one, the opposition is stepping up its anti-Establishment campaign and, then, his sons will be with him during Easter vacations.
With time, priorities have changed.