No one had heard of Birenchi Maharana or Kalinga Sena, his very own political outfit. At least until 1.45 pm today. As the Indian cricket team arrived at the Bhubaneswar airport for the Cuttack ODI against the West Indies, Maharana muscled his way through a crowd of fans, broke the security cordon and landed a blow on coach Greg Chappell’s back.
Maharana was immediately overpowered and whisked away by securitymen while Chappell boarded the team bus after a stumble. “All is fine and there’s no need to make an issue of it at all,” a team member quoted the coach as telling the cricketers. “In fact, there wasn’t much talk about this incident on our way to the hotel. Everything looked normal and Chappell looked unfazed,” the cricketer added.
Meanwhile, Maharana sat inside the police van, pumping his hands in celebration and, rather strangely, holding Chappell “accountable for non-inclusion of Orissa players in the national team”.
By all accounts, Maharana’s act appeared to be a publicity stunt.
Bhubaneswar SP Amitabh Thakur said that Maharana had been arrested and 50 other activists of his Kalinga Sena detained for “disrupting normal life by staging a demonstration”.
Eyewitnesses said Chappell, trying to get past waiting fans, came too near the security cordon rope and Maharana, grabbing his chance, tried to hit him on the head. But as policemen pushed him away, he managed to hit Chappell on the back.
At Cuttack’s Barabati stadium too, Orissa police personnel are guarding the pitch following threats that the pitch would be dug up. The ODI against the West Indies will be played on Wednesday.
Asirbad Behera, Secretary of the Orissa Cricket Association, maintained that “no importance should be attached to these threats as too many little-known groups are looking to thrive by doing cheap things”. He said they were “well-equipped” to tackle any situation and the police have provided extra security as a precautionary measure.
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