The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Guns outside, missiles fly inside

New Delhi, April 17: Anti-aircraft guns were no match for the missiles that Delhi's cricket crazy fans sent hurtling into the Ferozeshah Kotla today.

Spectator sportsmanship went for a toss as the heat soared, both on the field and off it.

India were staring at defeat, reduced to 94 for six by the 23rd over. Mohammed Kaif had just lost his wicket at a score of four. The crowd near the players' dressing room erupted, hurling water bottles on to the ground.

Fifteen 20-litre mineral water cans, brought in to replenish coolers in the stadium, and about 100 small mineral-water and cold-drink bottles landed in rapid succession. The culprits were from the stands that had paid Rs 5,000 a ticket.

'The game was a total let-down. What was worse was how some people in the crowd behaved. I was shocked. It is just a game and this was not sporting at all,' said Shalini Grover, a student of Lady Shri Ram College, who had come with friends.

The 'impregnable' cover that the home ministry had asked security agencies to throw around the stadium ruled out spectators from returning if they stepped out.

Yet, today, they did after the rule was relaxed, once Pervez Musharraf and Manmohan Singh had left, because of water shortage in the stadium. Spectators had earlier been directed not to carry water bottles, mobile phones, bags and remote-controlled keys.

This was part of the heavy security accorded to the sporting event attended by the visiting Pakistan President. Even radar-fitted anti-aircraft guns were positioned around the stadium ' declared a 'no-fly' zone ' used for the third time after the high-profile visits of Bill Clinton and Ariel Sharon.

As soon as the improvised missiles came flying, the umpires signalled to the captains and the teams and the game was halted. While they debated with officials on the fate of the match, the organisers appealed to the crowd for calm.

'They (spectators) were reminded this was an international match being watched by the Pakistan President and Prime Minister Singh. Such action could ensure Delhi did not get an opportunity to hold another international match,' a witness said.

Security personnel, too, got into the act. 'They were pleading with the people that they had paid Rs 5,000 a ticket and should show better behaviour,' a spectator said.

The one-dayer resumed after 15 tense minutes at the Kotla, which was hosting an international match after three years since renovation started.

The stadium was courting controversy even in the run-up to the game ' first, over mandatory security clearances and later over a petition that sought a stay on the match for reasons of safety.

India's loss was, as a result, perhaps all the more bitter for the audience. 'I had come from Muzaffarnagar. I stood in the line for hours to get a ticket. But I am so disappointed about the way they just let them win without a fight,' said Jatin Khanna, a spectator.

Blackmarketing was brisk today outside the stadium, where long winding queues had formed before 7 am to be checked and frisked by security personnel.

Email This Page