You can replace Pak players, HIL tells teams; women’s cricket Cup takes a hit

Pakistan hockey players
Bowing to increasing political pressure to send the nine Pakistanis participating in its tournament back, the Hockey India League (HIL) has given the franchises the option to replace them. It's learnt that Mumbai Magicians have decided to send back their four Pakistani players, while three other teams are mulling their options.

Indo-Pak sporting ties Tuesday also took taken another hit with the BCCI suggesting to the ICC that taking into account the prevailing situation in the country, Pakistan be kept out of the Women's Cricket World Cup, scheduled to begin from January 31 in Mumbai.

On Sunday, Shiv Sena members protesting against Pakistani players' participation in the HIL had disrupted a training session of the Mumbai team.

According to sources, Arun Jaitley and Rajiv Shukla, both of whom hold powerful positions in the BCCI as well as the HIL, talked to Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray over the phone in an attempt to calm down the situation. However, the Sena chief was firm on his stand and reiterated that no player from Pakistan would be allowed to play in Mumbai.

By afternoon, the message was conveyed to BCCI chief N Srinivasan, who conveyed the same to the ICC, which will take the final call. "We have informed the ICC about it. They will have to examine and take a view," Srinivasan informed after the meeting.

Earlier the BCCI was considering the option of shifting Pakistan's matches from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. However, Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) honorary secretary Rajesh Patel told The Indian Express they were not interested in hosting the Pakistani women's team during the WCC.

"We haven't got any formal announcement from the BCCI or ICC but if the request comes, then we will not accept it. We don't want Pakistan's women's team here in Ahmedabad. Looking at the current scenario in the country, we don't want to have a Pakistan game here," Patel said.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi also happens to be the GCA president. Modi's party BJP too has taken a similar stand towards Pakistan players.

In New Delhi, Hockey India secretary general Narinder Batra is believed to have consulted Union Home Ministry officials before meeting the owners of the five franchises over their Pakistani players.

Batra said the decision to allow the teams to send back the Pakistanis was taken considering the "extraordinary circumstances" and having kept "all stakeholders (including the Pakistan federation and the International Hockey Federation) in the loop".

Batra said that the franchisees, who had to release the Pakistani players, were free to seek their replacements from the allocated budget. "The contract money for 2013 will be paid in full to the Pakistani players and HI stands committed in guaranteeing the same," Batra said in a statement.

However, a team owner said they hadn't receive any official communication from Hockey India and would release their Pakistani players only after getting a formal intimation. "As of now, we haven't been given anything officially. We are expecting a letter tomorrow. So our players will be sent back once we receive it," said the team official.

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