Calcutta: With the Shiv Sena making it clear to The Telegraph that it won’t spare even the women players from Pakistan, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has been pushed into a suffocating corner.
Now, it may be compelled to shift the January 31-February 17 women’s World Cup out of Mumbai. In an extreme step, possibly out of India as well.
Speaking around 9.00 pm on Tuesday, Shiv Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut, a member of the Rajya Sabha, told this Reporter: “It’s not about men or women, we’re opposed to the presence of all Pakistanis, particularly in Mumbai and in Maharashtra, jahaan hamari taakat hai...
“Sportsmen, sportswomen, artistes... We’re opposed to everybody... We’ve already driven out Pakistani hockey players and we’ll agitate against the women cricketers too... Why should we welcome them when our soldiers are being beheaded on the border?
“Why welcome any Pakistani when their country is encouraging acts of terrorism against India? Kyon?
“If the women’s World Cup is relocated to another city in India, I hope there will be enough patriotic people there to rise and protest... Surely, it’s not only the Shiv Sena’s responsibility to raise nationalistic issues.”
Raut was rather agitated.
An hour before that conversation, this newspaper learnt that if “foolproof security” couldn’t be ensured, then the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) would like the tournament moved to another centre within India.
“We’ve requested the ICC to ensure foolproof security for our women... If there’s a hint of risk, we’ve asked them to shift the World Cup out of Mumbai,” Nadeem Sarwar, the PCB’s general manager, media, said from Lahore.
Sarwar added: “The men’s team has just completed a successful tour of India, which went off without a hitch... The ICC could, therefore, look at other venues if the need so arises. That’s the position as things stand.”
The World Cup is to be held at four grounds in Mumbai — the Wankhede Stadium, the Brabourne Stadium, the Mumbai Cricket Association’s impressive Bandra-Kurla Complex and the MIG Club in Bandra.
Security has become an issue after the Shiv Sena targeted the Pakistani players belonging to the Hockey India League franchise, Mumbai Magicians.
After Sunday’s protest, the franchise moved base to New Delhi and, now, all nine Pakistani players signed up by different franchises have returned home/are going back.
It’s a development which can’t be ignored.
The Shiv Sena has resumed its Pakistan bashing after the killing of two of our soldiers, one of whom was beheaded, an act which has inflamed passions across the country.
Meanwhile, a well-placed source in the ICC revealed that the “security situation” will be “reviewed” in Mumbai on Wednesday.
“There won’t ever be a compromise with security, but it’s premature to make a specific comment till we’ve got the ground report... Hosting the tournament in another city is a possibility...
“Shifting it out of India altogether is an absolute last resort... That would be the doomsday scenario,” the well-placed source pointed out.
After the Board’s working committee meeting in Mumbai, president Narayanswamy Srinivasan briefed the media: “We have informed the ICC (of the developments)... They have to examine things and take a view...
“Logistically, it will be tough to change the venue, but then it’s for the ICC to decide.”
The Pakistani women are clubbed with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in group B. Group A features England, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and, of course, India.
Footnote: One fall out of the increased tension between New Delhi and Islamabad is that Pakistani cricketers, clearly, won’t be making a comeback in the IPL’s edition No.6.