'Cricket should be kept away from politics': Rajiv Shukla on Thackeray's threat

Bal Thackeray with former Pakistan cricket captain Javed Miandad in 2004New Delhi, Nov. 5 (ANI): With Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray asking his party activists 'not to permit' the forthcoming matches between India and Pakistan anywhere in the country, Congress MP and senior Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) official Rajiv Shukla on Monday said the game of cricket should be kept away from politics and emphasized on encouraging sports between the two Asian neighbours.

Shukla said not much importance should be accorded to these kinds of statements or editorials because in the past also despite of these threats, several India-Pakistan series have taken place.

"And they went on very smoothly, there was no problem, there were no security impediments and the series had been conducted in a very smooth manner. So, I don't see any problem for the forthcoming series also," he added.

Shukla said the BCCI is in constant touch with the officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs, who in turn are in touch with the concerned state governments to ensure that adequate security arrangements are put in place for the upcoming series.

"The safety and security of the players as well as the spectators are being taken care of. So, I don't think there should be any problem. At the same time I would like to urge these kinds of elements that they should desist from making such kinds of statements," said Shukla.

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"When we are talking at the official level with Pakistan, the negative list has been reduced and we are enhancing our trade with Pakistan; a lot of Indian merchants are getting benefitted out of that. Why to bring cricket into it, just because cricket gets huge publicity. In order to get political mileage, you bring cricket into it. Cricket should be kept away from politics and we should encourage these kinds of sports ties between the two countries," he added.

The Shiv Sena chief has in his party mouthpiece 'Saamna' criticized Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde for his statement 'to forget the past' and play cricket with Pakistan.

"Mr. Shinde, why are you taking this immature step of playing cricket with Pakistan? How can you say that we should forget the past? How and why should we forget the past?" he asked, while referring to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and other attacks in different parts of the country.

Shinde had earlier on Friday welcomed Pakistani team's visit to India, saying sportsmanship should be maintained and that one must not ponder over what happened in the past.

Shinde said that any player from anywhere could come and play in India.

"Yesterday, I clarified that any player from anywhere, they can come to India and play here. We must have friendly relations. Once what happened in the past that should not be all the time we should repeat it. We must maintain the sportsmanship and a sport like cricket is certainly welcome," Shinde told mediapersons in Hyderabad.

"It should be free from politics. Whether it is sports or cultural affairs or whether it is singing or dancing, all these activities should be restricted to those activities only," he added.

Thackeray had earlier termed the BCCI's invitation to Pakistan's cricket team as a matter of 'national shame'.

"The Pakistan team will be playing matches at Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru. At one point or the other, Pak terrorists have attacked these cities. The feet of Pakistani players won't touch Maharashtra but their tour of these cities is a matter of national shame," The Express Tribune quoted Thackeray, as telling a news channel.

He also accused the BCCI of 'betraying the country for sake of money' and Indian cricketers of being part of that betrayal.

Thackeray considers it an insult to those who had lost their lives in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

The BCCI earlier announced that it had secured the government's clearance to host Pakistan for a short tour later this year.

The BCCI has invited Pakistan to play three one-dayers and two Twenty20 matches in December-January, the first bilateral contests between the arch-rivals in five years. (ANI)

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