Coach Greg Chappell on Monday got a taste of India’s cricket fanaticism when he was manhandled at the airport in Bhubhaneswar, an unsavoury incident which has forced security to be beefed up ahead of the second one-dayer against the West Indies.
Chappell, who has often landed himself in controversies involving Indian fans since taking over as a coach in 2005, was pushed from behind by an irate fan, who had managed to break the security cordon at the Biju Patnaik Airport.
The former Australian captain was walking towards the team bus when the man suddenly lunged towards him and tried to grab him, Superintendent of Police Amitav Thakur said.
But Chappell moved away as the man, identified as Biranchi Maharana and an activist of political outfit ‘Kalinga Sena’, was immediately taken into custody and subsequently arrested, Thakur said.
Maharana later told newsmen that he was protesting against the non-inclusion of cricketers from Orissa in the Indian Team. The SP denied reports that the former Australia captain had been slapped during the incident, which comes barely a day after India recorded a thrilling 14-run victory in the series opener at Nagpur.
He said around 50 Kalinga Sena activists had gathered outside the airport but were pushed out by the police. However, Maharana somehow managed to position himself among the cameramen and journalists.
Kamalakanta Pande, a member of the Orissa Cricket Association, who claimed to be present at the spot, said the man appeared to fall on Chappell who moved away.
The two teams were then whisked away to the plush Mayfair Lagoon Hotel where they would be staying. Chappell is not a popular figure in the Eastern parts of the country, particularly in West Bengal, with fans holding him responsible for the ouster of Sourav Ganguly from the team last year.
Chappell refused to comment on the incident even as media persons crowded the team hotel for his reaction. Eyewitnesses said Maharana, after being taken to a police jeep, shouted slogans like ‘Kalinga Sena Zindabad,’ ‘BCCI go back’ and ‘Chappell go back’.
"Why are players like Debasis Mohanty and Shiv Sundar Das from Orissa not included in the Indian team," he demanded.
Incidentally, both Mohanty and Das have played for the country in the past before being sidelined. Security for the two teams was further tightened following the incident.
Airfield police station inspector in-charge Utkal Das told PTI that Maharana had been formally arrested and a case registered against him under sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation), 120b (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intentions) of IPC.
He was being forwarded to the court of the sub-divisional judicial magistrate in Bhubhaneswar, he said. The DIG of Police, Bhubaneswar Range, YB Khurania said they were reviewing the incident.