The Pakistan players signed by franchises of the Hockey India League are unlikely to play the matches scheduled in Mumbai. The Shiv Sena's protests in Mumbai against their participation on Sunday has left the players worried, and they could well skip the matches at the Mahindra stadium unless tight security is put in place.
Former Pak skipper Rehan Butt — the elder brother of Imran Butt, who is playing for the Mumbai Magicians — confirmed that the players were contemplating skipping the Mumbai leg.
“We spoke to Imran on Sunday and he and the other Pak players were in a state of shock. But I told him to go ahead and play as their security is the responsibility of the Indian government,” said Rehan. “Imran informed us that they (Pak players) have been advised not to venture out alone. He also said that the players would skip the Mumbai matches if conditions did not improve.”
Hockey India sources said a similar idea has been mooted by some teams but no decision has been taken as the HIL board is still assessing the impact it would have on the franchises. Nine Pakistan players are representing various teams in the HIL. The Mumbai franchise has four Pak players, the most.
Meanwhile, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) advisor and former president, KPS Gill said, “HI should immediately restrict the Pakistan players from playing in the league in protest against the brutalities committed by Pak terrorists.”
The Mumbai Police said they had not received a request from HI or Mumbai Hockey Association for extra security. “We are taking stock of the situation. There has been no formal communication from the organisers. However, if they ask for it, we would do the needful,” said Ravindra Shisve, deputy commissioner of police (zone I).
Mum's the word
In Delhi, when asked about the Pakistan players in their respective sides, Delhi Waveriders and Jaypee Punjab Warriors chose to play it safe. Delhi coach Ajay Bansal said that Mohd Rizwan Sr & Jr, unable to find a direct flight and thus forced to fly in via Dubai, were only able to join the squad at 8am on Monday.
Jamie Dwyer said that Syed Kashif Shah, the lone Pakistan player in Punjab's ranks, is short of match practice, having only played with the team for two days. The Aussie sounded hopeful of Kashif's inclusion later in the tournament.