Putting an end to all speculation, BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur on Monday said talks on reviving cricketing ties with Pakistan have been cancelled following Shiv Sena protests.
PCB chief Shaharyar Khan was to meet newly-elected BCCI president Shashank Manohar in Mumbai to discuss the resumption of bilateral series between the two cricket crazy countries. Just then, around 70 Shiv Sena activists barged into the headquarters of the Board of Control for Cricket in India shouting slogans and asking Manohar to axe the talks.
The Shiv Sainiks carried a black flag and, massing around Manohar’s desk, shouted slogans like “Pakistan murdabad [death to Pakistan]”, “Shashank Manohar murdabad” and “Shaharyar Khan go back” as the BCCI chief watched the fracas quietly.
Police detained more than two dozen Sena activists and whisked them away. One protester said the Sena would not okay cricketing ties with Pakistan till it stopped killing Indian soldiers and civilians at the border.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the protest was not a ‘gherao’ but meant to urge Manohar to cancel the negotiations with his Pakistani counterpart.
While condemning the Sena for the Mumbai protest, Thakur said the proposed Test series between India and Pakistan scheduled for December was unlikely to be held.
After the Mumbai protest, there was speculation the meeting might be shifted to New Delhi where BCCI’s senior selection committee met on Monday to announce the team for the remaining matches of the ongoing series against South Africa.
Thakur denied this, saying talks can only take place in Mumbai, where the BCCI is headquartered. “The BCCI and PCB have some outstanding issues, and the PCB chief wanted to meet the BCCI president to discuss those things. But those have been cancelled now,” Thakur told reporters.
Thakur, a BJP MP, said he condemened the Sena “attack because you cannot barge into the BCCI office and force cancellation of the talks. In a democracy, you can protest but you can do it on the streets but you can’t barge into anyone’s office, home or headquarters,” he said.
He said the India-Pakistan series will only take place when relations between the two countries improve and the two governments start talking to each other again.
Earlier, Indian Premier League (IPL) chairman Rajeev Shukla also flayed the protest in Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium complex.
Thakur, however, used the occasion to appeal to people to insulate sports from politics. “The World T20 will be staged in India in 2016. It is the responsibility of every Indian to ensure that every sports event held in the country passes off peacefully. We should also appreciate other teams if they play well against India,” he said.
Khan had earlier criticised the BCCI for pulling out of the Test series and accused the Indians of breaching a MoU according to which India and Pakistan were to play six bilateral series until 2022.
Thakur dismissed the PCB chief’s remarks. “The situation in Pakistan is not such that you can play there. So where do you play against Pakistan?” he said. “I think it is very clear what led to this situation.”
“In any case, the series cannot happen unless the PCB chairman meets the new BCCI president and holds talks at an official level.”
This is the third major protest in a fortnight by the Shiv Sena against events involving Pakistani nationals.
Around 10 days back, Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali’s concerts in Mumbai and Pune were cancelled following the Sena’s strong opposition. On October 12, Sena activists blackened the face of veteran journalist Sudheendra Kulkarni in a bid to force him to cancel a book launch function of former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.