New Delhi, Jan 15 (IANS) All nine Pakistani players, now here for the Hockey India League (HIL), will be sent home in the wake of the protests against their presence in the inaugural event when tensions are mounting on the Line of Control (LoC).
The players leaving for home are Fareed Ahmed, Imran Butt, Mahmood Rashid and Muhammad Tousiq (all Mumbai Magicians), Muhammad Rizwan Sr. and Muhammad Rizwan Jr. (Delhi Waveriders), Muhammad Irfan and Shafqat Rasool (Ranchi Rhinos) and Kashif Shah (Jaypee Punjab Warriors).
The players, blissfully unaware of the late-evening development, were practising with their franchise teams.
"The decision was made in consultation with the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), International Hockey Federation (FIH) and the franchise officials," HIL chairman Narinder Batra told reporters Tuesday.
"Due to extraordinary circumstances, we reached a consensus that it was best for Pakistanis to return home. We did not want them to play under any sort of pressure. As it is not their fault, they will be paid according to their three-year contract and the teams are free to look for their replacements. The decision (to send them home) however was taken only for 2013," added Batra.
There were indications Monday night that the Pakistani players might not feel secure enough to play in the league when Jaypee Punjab Warriors and Delhi Waveriders did not field them in the inaugural game here.
The clamour for their ouster began when Shiv Sena threatened to disrupt the Mumbai franchise team's home matches if it fielded the Pakistani players. The extreme right wing party's action came following the killing of Indian soldiers at the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
Taking the cue, a couple of youngsters raised slogans against the presence of the Pakistani players during the opening HIL match in the national capital.
Mumbai Magicians, the franchise which had the maximum number of Pakistanis in their squad, have already started looking at replacing Ahmed, Butt, Rashid and Tousiq with players from Australia and New Zealand.
"Keeping the public sentiment in mind, we have decided to send the players back to Pakistan," Mumbai Magicians owner Amit Burman told IANS.
"To replace the Pakistanis, we have already started talking to the Australian and New Zealand players," he added.
For Punjab Warriors, the absence of Pakistanis from the league will not make much of a difference as they only have Shah.
"It is unfortunate that they have to return home. The fact that we had only one Pakistani player in the side, their departure will not be a huge setback for the team," a Jaypee Warriors official told IANS.