In yet another incident that has political overtone, unnamed aircrafts flew over the Headingley stadium with anti-India banners during the World Cup match between India and Sri Lanka, here Saturday.
The unsavoury incident has prompted the BCCI to file a written complaint with the ICC, raising concerns about the security of their players.
Minutes after the match began, an aircraft carrying the banner Justice for Kashmir flew above the ground. After half an hour, a similar looking aircraft flew over the stadium with a different banner – India Stop Genocide, Free Kashmir.
Midway into India’s run chase, a third aircraft was also seen with a banner – Help End Mob Lynching. “This is completely unacceptable. We have written to the ICC, raising our concern about what happened in Headingley today. If this kind of incident is repeated in the semi-finals, it will be really unfortunate. Safety and security of our players is paramount, a senior BCCI official, who is privy to the development told PTI.
This is second such incident inside 10 days as Afghanistan and Pakistan fans had clashed at the same venue on June 29 after Justice for Balochistan banner was displayed by an unnamed aircraft that landed at the Bradford airport.
A few fans were evicted for engaging in brawl inside the stadium premises.
The ICC has zero tolerance for political or racist slogans and expressed their disappointment at another security breach. “We are incredibly disappointed this has happened again. We do not condone any sort of political messages at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup,” the ICC said in a statement.
Yorkshire, in the north of England, is known for having a sizable Pakistan population with Bradford being their ghetto. “Throughout the tournament we have worked with local police forces around the country to prevent this type of protest occurring. After the previous incident we were assured by West Yorkshire Police there would not be repeat of this issue, so we are very dissatisfied it has happened again,” the ICC statement added.
It has also been learnt that the air space above Old Trafford in Manchester and Edgbaston in Birmingham will be turned into No-Fly Zone during the two semifinals on July 9 and July 11 respectively.
The ICC has been given assurance by the Manchester and Yorkshire police authorities in this respect.
ICC’s outgoing Chief Executive Dave Richardson accepted during a recent interaction that even if they have foolproof security, it can never really be enough.
Saturday’s incident is an indication that local authorities did not do enough as the airspace is their domain. The incident however leaves ICC on the edge since a more dangerous security breach is feared.