Attacks led by Shiv Sena activists broke the peace at the India-Pakistan talks in Mumbai earlier last week much to the disappointment of hopeful cricket fans

 

The meeting between India and Pakistan cricket board chiefs was scheduled to take place in Mumbai to discuss the possibility of arranging a cricket series between the two feuding countries. However no agreement could be finalised and the talks had to be cancelled after Shiv Sena Party activists stormed the cricket board office, just before the board members of the respective countries arrived for the talks.

This event marked the latest in a string of attacks by Shiv Sena activists across the country. Earlier this month their protests led to the cancellation of a concert by Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali. They also recently doused the head of an Indian think-tank, Sudheendra Kulkarni, in black ink after he showed his support for the book launch of a former Pakistani foreign minister.

The Shiv Sena are a far-right regional Hindu nationalist political party that blame Pakistan for militant attacks in India and who are opposed to any engagement with the neighbouring country. They are strongly opposed to Indian cricket reviving ties with their estranged Pakistani counterparts, and are doing their utmost to rule out a potential series from occurring between the two sides in the near future.

The activists broke into the head office of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium last Monday morning to force the cancellation of the talks between the BCCI chief Shashank Manohar and his counterpart Shahryar Khan. They were due to discuss the possibility of an India-Pakistan series at Pakistan’s adopted home in the UAE for December.

Monday’s incident has sparked security concerns for the safety of umpire Aleem Daar, currently officiating in the India-South Africa series, and for former Pakistani fast bowlers, Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar who are commentating in India for Star Sports on the same series.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) made the decision to send Daar, a member of the elite panel of ICC umpires, home after they received threats from Shiv Sena which would have been acted upon if Daar continued to officiate in the series. An ICC spokesperson said that ‘it will be unreasonable to expect from Aleem that he will be able to perform his duties to the best of his abilities under the present circumstances’. This decision has been made for Aleem Daar’s safety. Indian umpire S Ravi is expected to replace him and will officiate in the fourth ODI in Chennai. However, Akram and Akhtar are due to return to India to commentate on the fourth ODI and will then go back to Pakistan before returning for the fifth ODI. Akram’s agent Arsalan Haider, earlier said that the pair returned home for a security precaution but will return on the 23rd of October and commentate on the ODI in Mumbai on the 25th of October.

Pakistani players have already been frozen out of the IPL (Indian Premier League), the most coveted domestic T20 tournament in world cricket, and this news will come as another blow to a country plagued by violence which is still forced to play its home cricket in the United Arab Emirates.

Police have detained a number of protesters since the attack, and the meeting between the two cricket boards may now take place in the capital Delhi at an undisclosed location. Therefore there is still hope that a first meeting between the two cricket-mad nations since 2007 could take place in December which will come as a welcome relief to cricket enthusiasts eager to see their fierce rivalry recommence.