March 8, 2009

Security concerns

Safety harnesses

Aakash Chopra
Security guards crowd round the Sri Lankan team's bullet-ridden bus, Lahore, March 3, 2009
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Dear readers,

This post is not about domestic cricket or perhaps, not even about cricket, but about the prevailing circumstances in the game and our society in general. Today, this piece appeared in the Hindustan Times and I felt the need to share it with the people who follow my blog here. So here goes....

The terror attack in Lahore brought back memories of the time I spent in Pakistan during the 2004 tour. The security blanket thrown around us was unprecedented. Our team bus was part of a convoy that had a fire brigade, an ambulance, and helicopter surveillance along with quite a few police vehicles.

The roads were blocked and it was virtually a traffic free zone when we moved. We were briefed on the security protocol and were not supposed to leave the hotel without informing security personnel. They in turn would accompany us everywhere but only after they figured it was safe for us to do so. Otherwise, we stayed put.

Again, an armed guard always sat on the team bus during our Under-19 tour to Sri Lanka over 10 years ago because of the heightened threat from the LTTE. If someone had to get off the bus even for a bit, the guard would first decide if it was safe to stop the bus there, then get down himself to assess the situation, before letting anyone else get off. At that time, going anywhere on your own was out of the question. But still, it wasn’t anywhere near the kind of security arrangements we saw in Pakistan in 2004.

Then there was Guyana. This time, restrictions were imposed not because of terrorism but simply because of crime. We were told people got killed for even $10 so it was advisable to hide gold chains, mobiles and watches whenever in public. Kenya was much the same.

Yet, despite this all, we never once felt threatened. The thought that we could actually be targets never crossed my mind, so much so that a few mates and I actually played hookey and went shopping in Pakistan without telling anyone. We were duly served notice thereafter, obviously watched 24x7.

The Delhi blasts came and went and somehow, life went on. But the events of 26/11 in Mumbai changed it all. For the first time, I thought, ‘this could happen to me, my family, those I love’. I still go to movies, malls and crowded markets but to say that I’m not concerned would be untrue.

The damage in the attack on the Sri Lankan team was limited because the bus was able to move, once the driver got going. But I wondered about the horrific consequences if it had been stuck in a jam.

Last summer, my IPL team, the Kolkata Knight Riders, took about an hour to get from our Delhi hotel to the Feroze Shah Kotla, our bus moving at a snail’s pace because of the massive traffic jam. In Kolkata, we were always provided a traffic free zone through which the bus whizzed by as part of a small convoy. It wasn’t always so elsewhere.

I expect things to be different now. In another world, things like jams wouldn’t matter. Now they do. Life and cricket’s landscape have irrevocably changed in the year gone by.

Cheers.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Kater on (November 10, 2012, 23:17 GMT)

It will be difficult for L. Balaji to make it to the team. There are too many yosetugnrs at present who are in form. I don't think that the selectors will go back to Balaji, with other younger players around. 0Was this answer helpful?

Posted by rambi on (March 12, 2009, 2:00 GMT)

Akash a very good test player, but never sure about T20. I hope IPL is a failure this year, much to the agony of useless Modi

Posted by Ram on (March 12, 2009, 1:56 GMT)

Hi Aakash! Your blog always makes for a good read. Your book is also remarkable. I don't think I have read a better book on first class Cricket. It would be great to get my copy of the book signed by you. Are you available in Delhi on March 14 to sign the book? Thanks.

Posted by Aneesh on (March 11, 2009, 0:09 GMT)

Aakash, thanks for sharing your insights & observations about the security you've had on tours. There's not 100% guarantee against terrorism, but it's sad to think that the recent Lahore tragedy could have been mitigated or prevented with better security arrangements than were present.

Posted by Vishal on (March 10, 2009, 15:53 GMT)

Aakash, Just discovered your blog while trolling through cricinfo. Wow, I'm blown away! I hadn't an inkling that you wrote so well! I love that you are covering the domestic cricket scene in India. I've always been curious about the life of a domestic cricket player is. And the issues you touch upon are absolutely vital (loved the one about kookaburra balls in the domestic scene). Excellent, excellent blog, Aakash. Keep it up! I'll keep visiting for sure.

PS : Next time I hit the bookstore, I'll be sure to pick up a copy of your book. Take care!

Posted by Puneet Verma on (March 9, 2009, 22:18 GMT)

Hi Aakash,

Yeah your absolutely right. I've always been a fan of your batting man. Your really a classy batsman. I remember your series of 2003-2004. You really batted superbly. I can never forget that series. Your defense is perfect dude but just a small flaw is that at times you bend alot while batting which makes you unable to cover the bounce of ball and gets you out. I wrote this post to say that I AM A DIE HARD FAN of your batting and wanna see you back in Indian Team. I play cricket too and was at age of 15 when i saw you first come out bat in 2003 series of australia. I saw your classic drives to Gillespie and just loved it. Learnt some tips from your batting. I want a small autograph of yours as a fan. I hope you can fulfill my wish as this comes out from a supporter whose always been by your side. My mail address is puneet.vrma@gmail.com will look forward for your reply as a fan.

Posted by cheel on (March 9, 2009, 21:25 GMT)

True say and very well put at that...its alays great to reado ur blogs man. Hope we would recover from the Lahore attacks and life will move on. Personally I back delhi daredevils and mumbai indians(only bcoz of my man sachin) but all the best to KKR anyway. BTW did u try and get transfered to daredevils by any chance?

Posted by Neha J on (March 9, 2009, 16:11 GMT)

Never imagined even in my wildest dreams that cricketers would be targets. It's a good thing that the IPL is going ahead as scheduled. The people of India want it, and Indian cricket probably needs it to prove that cricket in the country is safe after all.

Posted by Samit on (March 9, 2009, 9:05 GMT)

Yah mate,thats true security is a probem everywhere now...Hope IPL goes well

Posted by cricketer.newsvine.com on (March 9, 2009, 4:13 GMT)

Akash, It is true that after the pakistan's incident, safety became a very important issue. Hope IPL goes well. All the best for you and knight riders.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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