Radical Hindus dig up cricket pitch ahead of India-Pakistan match

AFP 07 January 1999 _________________________________________________________________

NEW DELHI, Jan 7 (AFP) - Indian Hindu militants have dug up a cricket Test pitch as part of their campaign to prevent a planned tour by Pakistan later this month.

About 25 men from the Shiv Sena (Shivaji's Army) party, which rules the western state of Maharshtra and its capital Bombay, stormed New Delhi's Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium late Wednesday and dug up the pitch.

The stadium was in darkness and officials said the attackers could have disrupted the power supply. Police officials at the spot did nothing to stop the damage.

Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, a virulently anti-Moslem politician and a self-confessed admirer of Adolf Hitler, recently said he would not allow the Pakistan cricket team to play in India.

Earlier threats by him had stopped matches between the two countries in Bombay. Thackeray recently said his "boys" in New Delhi would do his legwork for him.

During the one-month tour, Pakistan are scheduled to play Test matches at New Delhi and Madras, the Asian Test championship opener against India at Calcutta and a triangular one-day series also featuring Sri Lanka across India.

The Pioneer daily said the incident put the first Test in New Delhi on January 28 in "serious doubt," since the pitch had "been damaged beyond repair."

But Delhi and District Cricket Association president Rambabu Gupta insisted "no one can stop the Test which will be held on schedule."

Association sports secretary Sunil Dev was equally adamant.

"We need about 10-15 days to fix the damage," he told the Indian Express newspaper.

Pakistan twice cancelled scheduled tours to India in 1993 and 1994 after similar threats from Thackeray, who accuses Pakistan of sponsoring cross-border terrorism in Indian-controlled Kashmir. _________________________________________________________________

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