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Risky play, off field
- Team members leave hotel minus security

Calcutta, Nov. 27: If it’s so hard policing Indian cricket players, guess how difficult Greg Chappell’s job of coaching them would be.

Police sources revealed that members of the team ' and some South Africans, too ' left the hotel either without informing security or refused to take it.

Take left-arm spinner Murali Kartik and all-rounder J.P. Yadav, for instance. On Wednesday, when they arrived in Calcutta for Friday’s match, the two went out to have a taste of the nightlife around 11.30 pm. They were later joined by Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Shisha Bar.

There is no ban on players staying out until so late two nights before the match, but the police had the problem that they went without security guards and escort vehicles.

“We had made all arrangements for security cover and a nodal officer was kept ready to coordinate. But some of the players simply refused security and we couldn’t force them,” said P.K. Chatterjee, DC (special branch).

Hours after the team checked into Taj Bengal on Wednesday, top police officials, including the assistant commissioner and the officer in charge of special protection from the SB, met the manager to discuss security for “all unscheduled and sudden movement of Indian players”.

The manager said he had asked players not to leave the hotel without his permission. Still, if someone did, he would do so at his own risk.

While that sounds like good logic on the face of it, security would certainly take the rap if anything did go wrong.

The three players had some innocent fun that night when they were out till 3.30 in the morning. “They were going on the dance floor from time to time and dancing with the crowd,” the Shisha manager said.

Refusal to take security is not confined to junior members of the team alone. A very senior player decided to make a trip after practice on Thursday and declined police escort. The player simply hopped into a black Maruti Esteem, possibly of a local friend, and left the ground.

Intelligence agencies have expressed fears in the past of senior members of the team being on the hit list of terrorists.

“Players are not allowed to go out of the hotel without the permission of the team manager. In case they go out with permission, they can only do so if they take the security personnel and the escort cars with them. But the players refused to listen to us. The way they sneaked out of the hotel on Friday evening could have created a huge risk for us if anything had happened to them,” said a member of the security contingent that was on duty at the hotel.

Security is always intrusive, which is why celebrities often try to avoid it.

After the match ended on Friday, with India losing by 10 wickets, three Indian players again decided to hit the night club trail. Kartik, who played in the match, Yadav and S.K. Raina, who did not, slipped out of the hotel just before midnight, again without escort cars, hopping into a cab instead.

They spent some 20 minutes at Shisha and went to the newly opened Underground at Hotel Hindustan International. After an hour, they popped over to Tantra at the Park, returning to Shisha again where they stayed about an hour, dancing and mingling with the crowd.

Kartik, who was to board the early morning flight along with Chappell, Rahul Dravid and others, returned to the hotel at 3.15 am in a private car.

Yadav and Raina, who were to take a later flight, came back at 4.20 am (in a taxi, No. 8380), minutes before Chappell, Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and the others took the team bus for the airport.

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