West Indies in India / News

Activists agitated over team selection

Chappell 'manhandled' at airport

Sriram Veera in Bhubaneshwar

January 22, 2007

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Greg Chappell stumbled, nearly fell, recovered and hastened towards the entrance © AFP
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Greg Chappell, the India coach, was slapped on the back, one man was arrested and around 50 were detained, as complete chaos enveloped the Indian team's arrival at Bhubaneshwar airport for the second ODI against West Indies. This incident follows reports that the security of the players in Cuttack, the venue for the one-dayer, is under threat from planned terrorist strikes.

Activists of the Kalinga Kamgar Sena, a fringe political outfit in Orissa, mingled with the enthusiastic fans waiting for the team and started shouting slogans against the selection. The police had already detained 50 members of the unit as a preventive measure. It took some time to register what the protest was about before it emerged that they were clamouring for the inclusion of an Orissa cricketer in the Indian team.

One agitated man, identified as Biranchi Maharana, broke through the thin police cordon, got among the local reporters, and rushed towards Chappell. In a blink, he had shoved and hit Chappell on the back. Chappell stumbled, nearly fell, recovered and hastened towards the entrance. Gautam Gambhir then did what the police should have done by blocking off the entrance and allowing Chappell to board the bus.

Maharana was arrested soon after the incident and, while being whisked away, shouted, "I am angry with Chappell because no player from Orissa has been included in the national team."

The security at the airport seemed inadequate for the hundreds of fans who had gathered outside the arrival gate an hour before the team's flight landed. There were a few policemen holding a rope but couldn't hold back the invading mob of fans once the cricketers walked out.

Interestingly, just before the Indian players came out, the television commentary crew, comprising Jeff Dujon, the former West Indies wicketkeeper, L Sivaramakrishnan and Tony Cozier walked out but no one in the crowd recognised them. Since the entire area was supposedly cordoned off, their bus could not enter the airport area and they were left perspiring in the midday heat.

Post the chaos, senior police officials announced that the cricketers would be given Z-Category security.

However, they denied any specific threat to the India-West Indies match. "My information is that Greg has not been hurt but this is a serious security lapse on part of the Orissa police," Rajiv Shukla, the Indian board vice-president, told AFP. "We have asked the state government to increase security for the two teams."

Meanwhile, Rahul Dravid brushed off concerns about the security threat. "We are not perturbed at the security aspect, the entire team is high on morale after the win and all the boys are fine. Our focus is mainly on the game."

Sriram Veera is editorial assistant of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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