ZIMBABWE cricket coach Lalchand Rajput (pictured) — who comes from India — would have been an “easy target” of terror attack in Pakistan, a top diplomat of the Asian country has said.
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) announced this week that India’s government, through its embassy in Harare, had prohibited Rajput from travelling to Pakistan with the team, which is set to take on the host nation in three 50-over contests and three Twenty20 Internationals beginning on 30 October.
The Southern African team arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday without head coach Rajput, a former India batsman who played two Tests and four ODIs for his country. Tension has been mounting between arch-rivals India and Pakistan with the perpetual risk of all-out war between the two neighbouring Asian nations looming large, reports say.
Tension between citizens of both countries can also reach boiling point, and the Indian authorities insist Rajput would have been exposed to even greater risk due to his status as a known sports personality.
“It’s dangerous for him to go there,” Abhijit Biswas, the Indian embassy’s head of chancery in Harare, told The NewsHawks this week.
“It’s the government’s policy to protect its citizens. Don’t you see how they have been attacking our borders? 65 people, Indian security forces, died in one blast at the border. As a diplomatic mission, we have to make a firm stand. Lalchand Rajput, your coach, is a very important person in India. He will be targeted, definitely he will be an easy target! So it’s a big risk for him. They (Pakistani authorities) will say they will protect him, but they won’t. Did you see what happened to the Sri Lankan team (in 2009)? So, Rajput cannot go to Pakistan.
Even in the stadium, he will be targeted. How can I allow an Indian national to go to the mouth of death? If I allow that to happen, who will be answerable if something happens to him?” Rajput had been issued a visa to enter Pakistan, with the authorities there reportedly assuring Zimbabwe of the coach’s safety, but Biswas said the Indians were not quite convinced.
“You cannot take chances with terrorists,” remarked the tough-talking diplomat. “They will just come and attack.”
Tavengwa Mukuhlani, the ZC chairman, said Zimbabwe’s cricket governing body could not disregard the request of the Indian government.
“We just have to do with what we have, although we are obviously disappointed to tour without our coach,” Mukuhlani said.
“As ZC, we are not involved in the diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan. We are friends with India, and we are friends with Pakistan. As for matters of diplomacy, we left those to the government of India.”
The Sports and Recreation Commission, a government-appointed body that oversees sport in Zimbabwe, also issued a brief statement to this publication.
“We, as SRC, cannot comment on bilateral matters between India and Pakistan,” said SRC boss Gerald Mlotswa. Rajput, 58, was appointed Zimbabwe’s head coach in August 2018. Meanwhile, Pakistani-born Saad Khan, a stalwart figure in Zimbabwean domestic cricket circles, has dismissed Indian fears that Rajput would have been under any threat in his native country. 36-year-old Khan, who is currently coaching Harare Kings in Zimbabwe’s ongoing National Premier League, said it was “unfortunate” that India took the stand to withdraw the coach from the tour.
“This is very unfortunate that the Indian government is not allowing Rajput to tour, even after Pakistan gave him a visa,” Khan, who moved to Zimbabwe at the age of 15 to join his late uncle, said.
Khan is the nephew of the late affable Abi Hamid, a well-known and much-loved personality in the game in Zimbabwe who served as an administrator, coach, umpire and philanthropist. Chipinge-born Hamid died at the age of 51 after suffering a heart attack while playing for the Old Hararians second team in a league match in 2009.