Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group
Bal Thackeray is back in business, thanks to the Home Ministry’s move to clear the Pakistan cricket team’s tour of India. The Shiv Sena supremo wrote in a recent editorial of party mouthpiece ‘Saamna’ that they would not let Pakistan to play cricket series in India at any cost. The party is not doing anything new as in the past it has issued similar threats. In 1999, protestors from the party dug up the pitch in Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in protest, though the game was unaffected. Other fringe right-wing parties too have joined the bandwagon in opposing the scheduled tour as Pakistan has failed to bring to justice the masterminds behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead.
While there is no denying that the Pakistani government needs to do a lot more as far as 26/11 probe is concerned, it is baffling why only Pakistani cricketers are being targeted by these groups and not other sportsmen coming from across the border. Is it because they want a free ride on cricket’s popularity and garner some media attention? For starters, that seems to be the case.
A Zee Research Group (ZRG) study finds that post 26/11 many sportsperson from Pakistan have come to India, including Mumbai, and received no attention from these elements. Likewise, many non-cricketing sports events are lined up where sportspersons from Pakistan will be participating.
For instance, last month, the Pakistani Rugby team visited Mumbai to play Asian Sevens series held on October 13 and 14. A few days back, a team of students from Pakistan won the inter-school debate competition held at Vasant Valley School in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi.
Moreover, during October 2012, the contingent of 29 members, including disabled players and officials, visited Faridabad in Haryana to play cricket series against the handicapped players of India. In three- match series, Pakistan handsomely won the Indo-Pak Physically Challenged Cricket Series after thrashing Indian team. In October 2011, Pakistani kabbadi team came here to participate in the Kabbadi World Cup. The Asian Junior baseball tournament has also begun a week back in Cuttack, in which teams from India, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia and China have participated.
Apart from the upcoming tour of the Pakistan cricket team in December, the sporting interaction between the two nations will continue in other sports genre as well. The two traditional hockey rivals will also feature in the upcoming Lal Bahadur Shashtri men’s hockey tournament in November.
Pakistan’s women’s cricket team is also scheduled to tour India to play the final of ACC Women’s Twenty20 Asia Cup this year. As reported, the team will arrive in India on December 22 and will stay here till the first week of January.
Isn’t it time Sena makes it clear whether it opposes all sports interaction with Pakistan or just cricket? If it is just cricket, then why? The history reveals that Sena has majorly attacked cricket in past in comparison to any other sport. In December 2003, some of their activists allegedly damaged the cricket pitch of the Agra Sport Stadium before the cricket match between the neighbouring countries. Similarly, in April 2005, Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena, the students wing of the party allegedly attempted to prevent the one- day international between India and Pakistan being held in Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi.