Umpire Aleem Dar was withdrawn, while commentators Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar pulled out of the ongoing India-South Africa series on Monday, hours after Shiv Sena activists forced cancellation of talks between cricket officials of India and Pakistan.
Pakistani umpire Dar, a member of the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires, had officiated in the first three One-Day Internationals and was also scheduled to umpire in the fourth and fifth ODIs in Chennai and Mumbai on October 22 and October 25, respectively.
The International Cricket Council said it made the decision following the incident in Mumbai where a group of Sena activists stormed the Board of Control for Cricket in India office, and “threatened to prevent the umpire from standing in the fifth ODI on Sunday”.
“Under the present circumstances, it will be unreasonable to expect from Aleem that he will be able to perform his duties to the best of his abilities. As such, he has been withdrawn and his replacement will be announced in due course,” an ICC spokesperson said.
A Shiv Sena spokesperson, however, denied his party had issued any such threat.
Hours after the attack, former Pakistan fast bowlers Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar pulled out from the commentary team of the official broadcaster for the last two onedayers. According to sources, Akram and Akhtar pulled out on their own and there was no pressure from anyone as it was about threat perception.
Sena storms BCCI office
In the morning, around 70 Shiv Sena activists barged into the BCCI headquarters and asked president Shashank Manohar to cancel the scheduled talks with Pakistan Cricket Board chief Shahryar Khan over resumption of bilateral series.
The Shiv Sainiks carried a black flag and, massing around Manohar’s desk, shouted slogans like “Pakistan murdabad”, and “Shahryar Khan go back”. The talks were later rescheduled for Tuesday.
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.
The Shiv Sena, a partner in a ruling coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra, opposes any dealings with Pakistan citing the 2008 terror attacks by militants from across the border.
Bilateral series in UAE
Pakistan are due to host India for a full tour in the United Arab Emirates in December -- one of six series the arch-rivals agreed to play between 2015 and 2023 under an agreement signed last year -- pending India’s clearance.
International Cricket Council (ICC) president and former Pakistan cricketer Zaheer Abbas reacted to Monday’s incident, saying: “Politics and cricket are two different things. Pakistan is not asking India to play in Pakistan. Pakistan is asking for a bilateral series to be played at a neutral venue.”
Manohar had invited Khan for talks on the much-anticipated series scheduled in December. Khan and PCB’s executive committee head Najam Sethi were in the city for the meeting after discussing the planned series with BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur earlier on the sidelines of the ICC meeting in Dubai.
(With agency inputs)