On Monday, 19 October, members of the far-right Hindu nationalist party, Shiv Sena, stormed into the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) office in Mumbai. Protesting against the presence of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shahryar Khan, who was in the city to meet BCCI officials on the possibility of a cricket series with India, the protesters shouted slogans against Khan, asking the PCB supremo to go back to Pakistan.
The recent protest comes on the back of calls by Sena and other Hindu nationalist groups that India should avoid all cricketing engagements with Pakistan. However, Shiv Sena's unease with cricket and Pakistan hardly comes as a surprise. Over the years, cricket has often been used as a tool by Sena to exercise its xenophobic brand of politics.
On quite a few occasions, Sena's political meddling with the sport has brought disrepute to Indian cricket, and Monday's incident is no different. Here are five previous instances where cricket has fallen victim to Shiv Sena's toxic political views.
1991 - Wankhede Stadium vandalised
In 1991, the Pakistan cricket team was scheduled to visit India for a bilateral series. A few days before their tour, a Shishir Shinde-led Shiv Sena delegation entered the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and dug up the pitch, pouring engine oil into it and rendering it unplayable. Following the incident, the Pakistani team was forced to cancel the tour due to security reasons.
1999 - Feroz Shah Kotla pitch dug up
Amidst rising tensions in the Indian sub-continent, the Pakistan cricket team toured India in 1999 for a two-match Test series. It was supposed to be a friendly affair, but the series almost got sabotaged by Shiv Sena, when members of the political group dug up the pitch at Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla ground. The Indian securiy forces, however, succeeded in preventing any more untoward incidents, and the series went ahead as planned.
2006 - Threats to disrupt ICC Champions Trophy
In the wake of the Mumbai serial train blasts, Shiv Sena threatened to disrupt Pakistan's matches in the ICC Champions Trophy in India. Sena were of the view that the neighbouring country shouldn't have been allowed to participate in the event after Indian security agencies hinted at the possible involvement of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the blasts. However, the matches went ahead as planned as Sena failed to bring their plans to fruition.
2011 - Threats to disrupt World Cup final
With the final of the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup scheduled in Mumbai, Shiv Sena threatened to play spoilsport in case the Pakistani team managed to reach the final. Even before the tournament started, Shiv Sena stated that only Bal Thackeray would decide whether Pakistan will be 'allowed' to play in Mumbai if they progressed to the title match. However, Pakistan lost to India in the semi-final in Mohali, and a dangerous security situation was averted.
2012 - 'Will not let Pakistan play in India'
In 2012, Shiv Sena strongly criticised BCCI for inviting Pakistan for a short one-day series in India, vowing to stop the series from going forward. In light of the security concerns, Mumbai was once again excluded from the list of venues for the series. The matches in three other cities, however, went ahead without any disturbances.