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Hockey: India-Pakistan tensions hit new league

January 15, 2013

NEW DELHI: Nine Pakistani players signed up for a new hockey league in India are facing the heat after a flare-up along the border that reports suggest could also affect the women’s cricket World Cup.

None of the Pakistanis featured in the opening match of the Hockey India League (HIL) in New Delhi on Monday, and officials declined to comment when asked if they will play in the four-week event.

Trouble began on Sunday in Mumbai when the city’s franchise, which had enrolled four Pakistanis, was forced to cancel a practice session after protests from the right-wing nationalist Shiv Sena party.

The entire squad, coached by Australian Ric Charlesworth, shifted base to New Delhi as league organisers speculated if Mumbai could host the six matches allotted to it, the first one scheduled for January 20.

“I have no idea what will happen, but it will not be easy to play the matches in Mumbai if the Pakistanis are there,” Mumbai Hockey Association official Ram Singh told AFP.

The 34-match HIL, sanctioned by the sport’s world governing body, features top stars from around the world who will play for five city-based franchises till February 10.

The cities in the fray are New Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Ranchi and Jalandhar.

Tensions between India and Pakistan were heightened last week by a series of cross-border exchanges in disputed Kashmir in which four soldiers were killed. India says that one of its soldiers was beheaded.

Meanwhile, media reports on Tuesday said the women’s cricket World Cup, scheduled to be played in Mumbai from January 31 to February 17, could be affected due to Pakistan’s participation.

The Pakistani women are due to play three matches in the preliminary league of the eight-nation event and at least another four if they advance to the second round.

The Indian Express newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying Pakistan’s matches could be moved to Ahmedabad, which last month hosted a one-day international between the men’s teams of the two nations.

There was no immediate comment from the International Cricket Council on the report.

-AFP


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