Publication Date: 
Mon, 2007-03-19 03:00

RANCHI, India, 19 March 2007 — Furious Indian cricket fans stormed the home of national wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni yesterday to protest a five-wicket rout by Bangladesh in their opening World Cup match, police said.

Some 200 fans brought down walls and pillars of Dhoni’s house, which is under construction, in the eastern city of Ranchi to protest the 26-year-old player’s performance in India’s shocking defeat in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

India were all out for 191, with Dhoni returning to the pavilion without scoring in India’s match Saturday, a shock to the cricket-mad country of 1.1 billion people.

“Dhoni die, die,” protesters chanted, burning effigies of the long-manned player, who has scored 1,958 runs in 68 One-Day International matches and is counted among India’s most aggressive batsmen, an AFP reporter at the site reported.

Dhoni’s hometown, Ranchi, is the capital of Jharkhand state, which last year gave Dhoni a 360 square meter (4,000 square feet) plot of land to build a house on.

The protesters screamed anti-Dhoni slogans and demanded the withdrawal of the prime residential plot worth five million rupees ($110,000).

“It seems Dhoni is banking more on modeling than wicketkeeping and batting,” said Sohan Mahto, one of the protesters.

Similar protests were reported from the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, where irate fans were out on the streets after India’s humiliating defeat, the Press Trust of India said. They burned effigies of Indian captain Rahul Dravid and screamed slogans against out-of-form batsman Virender Sehwag, who scored just two runs before being bowled out. “They have betrayed the faith of the entire nation,” the fans chanted. “Players like Sehwag should not be taken into the team,” the news agency quoted one fan as saying.

Protests were also reported in the eastern city of Kolkata.

Former Players Call for Sehwag to Be Dropped

In Mumbai, several former players have called for India batsman Virender Sehwag to be dropped after the opener’s woeful form continued in the side’s shock World Cup defeat to Bangladesh.

The 28-year-old batsman looked unsure in the middle and lasted just six deliveries of India’s Group B opener before dragging a Mashrafe Mortaza delivery onto his stumps in the third over to be dismissed for two, triggering a collapse.

“Before this match I believed he should be tried. But the way he got out, I am in two minds whether he should be persisted with on past performances,” former captain Ajit Wadekar told Reuters yesterday.

Sehwag has hit just one fifty in his last 14 innings and chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar had disclosed recently that the player was only picked for the World Cup at the specific request of skipper Rahul Dravid.

Pakistanis Protest, Burn Effigies After Ireland Loss

In Karachi, angry Pakistani cricket fans took to the streets in protest and burned effigies of players yesterday, hours after the side’s shock defeat to Ireland in the Caribbean put the 1992 champions out of the World Cup.

Protesters held a mock burial of the team and the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in Hyderabad city, while posters and effigies of captain Inzamam ul-Haq and coach Bob Woolmer were burnt in the central city of Multan.

Private television channels were flooded with e-mails and calls from angry fans, who wanted the team and the PCB to be held accountable for bringing shame on the country.

Many of them pleaded emotionally for the government to withdraw all awards given to the players and management and freeze their bank accounts. “That is the least they can do for the shame and disgrace they have brought upon us. They must be made to pay for their spineless performance,” one protester, Yasir Ali, said in Multan.

In Hyderabad, Saleem Kazi, a club cricketer and protester taking part in the mock burial, said that as people celebrated when the team won, they had every right to vent their anger too.

Most Pakistanis have a passionate and emotional bond with cricket and the sport receives massive media exposure in a nation of 160 million people. Television channels, radio stations have signed on leading players for their expert comments and planned to run special cricket programs during the World Cup.

Chief selector Wasim Bari, who is also under fire, said he had not slept all night and was in a daze after the Ireland match.

“This is a hugely disappointing result. I am shocked. I still can’t believe we lost to Ireland,” Bari said. He said that after things became normal in a few days, there would be changes in the team for sure. Cricket board officials declined to make comments, but one of them admitted privately the backlash from Pakistan’s poor performance would be huge.

‘Pain and Shock’ Over Pakistan’s Ouster From World Cup

In Islamabad, the Pakistan cricket team’s dismal performance and ouster from the World Cup at the hands of Ireland has shocked the nation and drawn criticism at home.

Ireland clinched a sensational three-wicket victory over Pakistan to send the former champions crashing out of the World Cup at Sabina Park, Jamaica, on Saturday. Pakistan Cricket Board chief Nasim Ashraf will likely be the first head to roll when he faces a senate standing committee next week.

“We will ask for his (Ashraf’s) resignation in the meeting which is due to take place before March 28,” Senator Mohammad Enver Baig, a member of the senate standing committee on culture, sports, youth affairs and tourism told AFP.

“You lost miserably to a country like Ireland. There is nothing to compensate and the chairman must resign and go back to the United States,” Baig said.

“The way the team has lost is the most disgraceful performance since the World Cup started. The entire nation is shocked.” Baig said Ashraf had no experience to head the board and his “one man show” type of management had resulted in the “shameful defeat.”

Former cricketing great, paceman Sarfraz Nawaz, said the shock was “unbearable” for him.

“I am speaking with deep pain and this shock is becoming unbearable for me,” Nawaz said.

“The captain, coach and the entire team should be held accountable,” he said.

Nawaz demanded that those responsible for defeat must be “fired.”

He said that during the match with Ireland “it seemed that the umpires also wanted that Pakistan should win, but the body language of the team reflected that they wanted to lose.”

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