|Chappell, (top) Moharana. Pictures by Sanjib Mukherjee
Bhubaneswar, Jan. 22: Dropping Sourav Ganguly had brought him jeers and the sight of burning effigies. But keeping Shib Sundar Das out has earned Greg Chappell an attack in the flesh.
The Australian’s sourest taste of cricket fanaticism in India came at the Bhubaneswar airport today, at the hands of an activist of the Kalinga Sena, an outfit that claims to represent Oriya interests.
It wasn’t clear whether the India coach was pushed, slapped or “manhandled”, but the experience left him “shaken”.
Security had been tightened in the state capital to ward off the likes of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, reported to be eyeing mayhem at Wednesday’s Cuttack one-dayer. But it failed to keep out 40-year-old Biranchi Moharana, aggrieved that none from his state had made it to the national team.
The former taxi driver broke through the cordon and rushed towards Chappell, who had just arrived with the team on the 2 pm flight and was about to board the bus.
Orissa Cricket Association (OCA) member K.K. Pandey said he saw Moharana slap Chappell on his back and the coach bend over under the impact.
But superintendent of police Amitabh Thakur said Moharana had stumbled and fallen on Chappell as he lunged and tried to grab the Australian. TV news channels had claimed the coach was slapped.
Chappell, who recovered quickly and climbed into the bus, later sent The Telegraph a text message that said: “Shaken, but not stirred.”
The charges against Moharana, who has been arrested, include wrongful restraint, voluntarily causing hurt, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy.
The school dropout said he was angry at the “injustice and step-motherly treatment” of Orissa players. Das, Debashish Mohanty and Sanjay Raul are the only cricketers from the state to have donned the India cap.
As Moharana was led to the police van, he turned and shouted: “BCCI go back, Chappell go back, Kalinga Sena zindabad”. Another 50 Sena activists, allegedly planning to protest outside the airport, were detained.
BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah said Chappell hadn’t lodged a complaint. “He doesn’t want to pursue the matter. But we have asked the OCA to ensure tighter security.”