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South's image takes a hit as semi-finals are shifted - Security issue delays Mumbai Indians' arrival by a day; Sachin to skip City

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By LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
  • Published 19.04.10
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Calcutta: The notion that the South is relatively safe for sporting events, particularly cricket, took a big hit on Sunday afternoon when the Indian Premier League (IPL) relocated the semi-finals of the third edition, from Bangalore to Navi Mumbai.

It was done keeping the “players’ comfort level in mind.”

Apparently, Kevin Pietersen and Jacques Kallis, both of whom play for Royal Challengers Bangalore, didn’t wish to play there. Some other players from overseas were, it seems, also reluctant.

Navi Mumbai, incidentally, will be hosting the third-place playoff (April 24) and the final, on April 25, too. Semi-final No.1 is on April 21, with the second a day later.

It’s an absolute bonanza for the D.Y. Patil Stadium.

“I’m not aware if certain players actually expressed reservations over playing in Bangalore, but the IPL did keep the players’ comfort level in mind,” the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) secretary, Brijesh Patel, maintained.

The IPL went into overdrive from the morning itself, after a bomb and explosive materials were discovered in the vicinity of the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

On Saturday afternoon, of course, there had been two low-intensity explosions at the Stadium, shortly before the Royal Challengers-Mumbai Indians clash.

The match was delayed, but not scrapped. Developments on the morning-after, though, caused “much concern,” as Patel put it.

Because of what was found near the Stadium, security agencies made the Mumbai Indians change their travel plans for Calcutta.

“We were confined to the hotel (ITC Royal Gardenia) and asked to take a later flight... Now, we’ll only be reaching Calcutta around noon on Monday, eight hours before our clash against the Kolkata Knight Riders,” said a member of the Mumbai Indians’ team management.

[The Mumbai Indians will, by the way, be sans captain Sachin Tendulkar. Late in the evening, the in-form icon texted The Telegraph that he wouldn’t be coming.]

A senior manager at the seven-star hotel pointed out that the entire premises was “sanitised” afresh after the bomb and explosive materials were discovered.

“The police commissioner (Shankar Bidari) assured foolproof security, which included taking full control of the Stadium, but the IPL decided to take no chances... The KSCA is disappointed, but one has to keep the players’ comfort level in mind,” Patel commented.

Patel also heads the cricket operations of the Royal Challengers.

It couldn’t be confirmed, but both Pietersen and Kallis, it appears, were reluctant to play on Saturday itself. They had to be persuaded by captain Anil Kumble and Vijay Mallya, the franchise owner.

A media release quoted Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman and commissioner, who is in Dubai, as saying: “While reluctant to relocate the semi-finals at such short notice, yesterday’s incidents have made it clear that the current environment in Bangalore prevents us from continuing with our original plans...

“The incidents were assessed by the local police and the IPL’s security agency as being of a minor nature, but they have forced our hand... This decision is naturally disappointing for the people of Bangalore, but has been taken with the tournament’s best interests and the interests of the stakeholders in mind...”

Strangely, Modi’s statement made no mention of the happenings on Sunday morning.

After Bangalore, fans in Calcutta are going to be subjected to stricter screening and will face more restrictions, at the Eden, on Monday evening.