In the aftermath of Lahore

The Australian cricket team on arrival at Hotel Grand Ashok in Bangalore on September 26, 2007. “We definitely have an escort and a pilot to take cricketers to and from hotels and match venues. At the ground and its approach also we have elaborate police deployment. But from what I have observed for years, we do not have policemen lining the route from the hotel to the stadium,” says the author.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

The Lahore episode possibly strengthens the case for an exclusive full-time force that can handle security for all kinds of sports events, especially cricket, writes R.K. Raghavan.

Providing security for international cricketers has become incredibly complex. It was not even on the radar of many law enforcement agencies till a few years ago.

The issues thrown up by the attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore are weighty and are almost identical to those which security agencies wrestle with while providing security cover to state dignitaries.

The stand of many individual cricketers that they will not tour Pakistan any longer cannot be dismissed as a knee-jerk reaction. The fears are real. A man who knows Pakistan in and out, Imran Khan himself has admitted the folly of having declared earlier that cricketers travelling in his country would not be harmed. With the Taliban’s resurgence I do not think the situation in Pakistan will return to normal for years to come. Sadly, this means cricket lovers there will have to be content with watching cricket on TV.

Commentators are baying for the blood of cricket administrators and security agencies in Pakistan. The criticism that security was almost non-existent there is deserved, especially after the release of some stark footage of the manner in which the Lahore assailants made good their escape. Not a single policeman was to be seen anywhere in the vicinity of the bus carrying the cricketers. It is just possible that the two small vehicles seen in the footage were those of the pilot and the escort. This needs to be confirmed. But, it is more than obvious that there was no static security en route, something that we provide for in the case of political dignitaries. This was possibly a flaw in the arrangements.

But then, do we in India do this? We definitely have an escort and a pilot to take cricketers to and from hotels and match venues. At the ground and its approach also we have elaborate police deployment. But from what I have observed for years, we do not have policemen lining the route from the hotel to the stadium. So what happened in Lahore was not unusual, although the failure to have a police presence on the route left a gaping hole in the arrangements. The Indian Police have a lesson to learn here.

The commissioner of the IPL, Lalit Modi, says that a postponement is impossible because of the logistics involved.-RAJEEV BHATT

Foolproof security for cricketers is an expensive proposition. It calls for extraordinary deployment of police manpower, especially in India. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has phenomenal resources and it, and not the government, should pick up the tab. I presume the police bills the BCCI for this service.

The Lahore episode possibly strengthens the case for an exclusive full-time force that can handle security for all kinds of sports events, especially cricket. This is because major events in many sports these days involve international participation and this heightens the risk of terrorist attacks. I do not think there is any paramilitary force of the Central government that has the time and the bandwidth now to provide security for important sporting events. This is in spite of the fact that the Central Industrial Security Force Act was recently amended to extend protection to the private sector, such as information technology companies. However ridiculous it may seem at this juncture, the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports can think in terms of raising a force of its own and making security personnel available to sports bodies on payment basis. I do not think the BCCI should depend wholly on the State police forces, which are stretched all over the country.

This brings us to the controversy over the Indian Premier League matches. Home Minister P. Chidambaram has advised the postponement of the gala event until after the general elections, which are to take place between April 16 and May 13. The Commissioner and the Chief Operating Officer of the IPL have responded by saying that a postponement is impossible because of the logistics involved. But they have agreed to juggling the dates to ensure that police forces at a venue are free from poll duties.

One hopes that a compromise will be reached. The Home Minister’s view cannot be easily ignored merely on the ground that police forces belonged to the States and that the Union Home Ministry had no business to give this kind of advice. This stand may be technically correct, but in the long run ill-advised for the BCCI and the IPL. Interestingly, first reactions from Sharad Pawar favour the IPL posture.

(The writer is a former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation and a former umpire of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.)