| Greg Chappell
Calcutta: Usually, visitors to South Africa are cautioned over thefts (and, yes, muggings). Now, it seems an advisory has to be issued for those travelling to neighbouring Zimbabwe as well.
If not anybody else, the Indian cricketers and support staff will certainly be wary ' can’t be otherwise, after Wednesday’s incident at the Harare Sports Club.
That, too, while a tri-series match (New Zealand versus Zimbabwe) was on.
Thefts have been reported from in and around dressing rooms in most parts of the world, but ten members of the tour party lost their passport when manager Amitabh Choudhary’s bag got stolen while he was watching the Black Caps confirm a title-round berth.
Ironically, even the manager ' a senior IPS officer ' lost his passport! Not to speak of five days allowance ($250), around Rs 15,000, recently-purchased Polaroid sunglasses and tour-related documents...
Others who met Choudhary’s fate are: Coach Greg Chappell, physio John Gloster, sports scientist Ian Frazer (all Australian passport holders), Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Murali Kartik, Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina and Rudra Pratap Singh.
“A complaint was promptly lodged with the police and our ambassador (Ajit Kumar) also informed. The Australian diplomatic mission, too, was kept in the loop,” Choudhary told The Telegraph.
Till Saturday evening, however, the police were clueless.
“It was a freak incident' I can’t describe it any better' While our team was practising, the local manager (Admire Mardoza) and I decided to watch the match' We were in the stands and my bag was next to me while Mardoza’s ' an identical black piece ' was next to him'
“It was when we decided to head for the team bus, once the practice session was over, that I realised my bag had gone' Unfortunately, because of all the travelling and the tight schedule, I hadn’t been able to give the passports back to everybody'” Choudhary explained.
He added: “Usually, passports and documents of a general nature mean little to thieves' Yet, till now, the police haven’t been able to trace anything'”
A similar theft in Pakistan, for example, would have triggered a jumbo controversy on both sides of the divide.
According to Choudhary, the duplicate Indian passports are ready, while the “paperwork” has been done for the rest.
The Indian embassy, one understands, is coordinating with the Australian mission to expedite duplicate passports for Chappell, Gloster and Frazer.
It’s to be seen whether the police make any headway at all before Team India’s departure for home, three weeks from now.