Pakistani cricketers Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar have pulled out of commentating for the fifth and final ODI scheduled to be played at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on October 25 in the ongoing India and South Africa series citing security threat after Shiv Sainiks on Monday stormed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) headquarters in Mumbai.
The Sena, which is a partner in the ruling alliance in Maharashtra, is strongly against any cultural ties with Pakistan which it has accused of launching terror against India and killing Indian soldiers on the border. Recently, the members of the party poured black paint over author Sudheendra Kulkarni to shame him for hosting the book launch of a former Pakistani foreign minister. It also forced the cancellation of a concert by Paksitani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali in Pune and Mumbai.
According to reports, Akram's agent Arsalan Haider has confirmed that the pair would commentate on the fourth ODI in Chennai and return home on October 23.
The ICC has also withdrawn Pakistan umpire Aleem Dar from officiating in the remaining two matches of the ongoing one-day series after the Sena gheraoed BCCI chief Shashank Manohar, forcing the cancellation of talks with PCB chief Shaharyar Khan.
Dar, a member of the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires, had officiated in the first three matches and was also scheduled to umpire in the fourth and fifth ODIs in Chennai and Mumbai on October 22 and 25, respectively.
Manohar and Khan were to discuss the resumption of the Indo-Pak cricket ties and unofficial talks might be held in Delhi.
"Under the present circumstances, it will be unreasonable to expect from Aleem that he will be able to perform his duties to the best of his abilities. As such, he has been withdraw and his replacement will be announced in due course," an ICC spokesman said.
Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar unlikely to commentate in Mumbai game for Star: Sources pic.twitter.com/mItkB6Tpb9— CNN-IBN News (@ibnlive) October 19, 2015
Meanwhile BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur had said that Dar's presence will not be affected by any threat from any group.
"There was a possibility of a protest in Saurashtra as well. 50,000 people were supposed to turn up in Rajkot. So I am not going into any threat perception. The fact is that India will also host the T20 World Cup in 2016 and it is the responsibility of every Indian to keep our image of sportmanship alive," Thakur said.
Akram and Akhtar have pulled out on their own and their was no pressure from anyone, PTI reported.
I have had the privilege of knowing @wasimakramlive very well. I wish people could see the enormous love & respect he has received in India— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) October 19, 2015
Thakur virtually ruled out the possibility of an early resumption of Indo-Pak bilateral cricket series even as he strongly condemned the Shiv Sena protests inside the Board headquarters in Mumbai.
"First of all I condemn this attack. You can't barge into BCCI premises and force people not to hold talks with the PCB chairman. I think BCCI President is competent anough to discuss the matter with the PCB chairman but the final call is always taken after discussing with the union government.
"In a democracy you can protest, but on the streets. Raise your voice but you can't barge into someone's home, office, headquarters, I think that was not fair," Thakur said on the sidelines of the selection committee meeting in the national capital.
"In terms of relations between BCCI and PCB, we had held talks five months earlier and then again. I had made it clear earlier as well that the talks can continue between the Boards, but cricket will only happen when conditions will improve.
Thakur said it will bevery difficult for him give a timeframe as to when cricketing ties can be restored.
"Talks will happen between the two nations and only then the Boards will be able to decide. The two governments will have to start talking at one level. If you talk about the December series, it will be very difficult for me to commit till we talk with the union government", he said.
On the possibility of a meeting with Shaharyar in the capital, Thakur was not willing to give an official word about it. "I had met Mr Shaharyar Khan during the ICC meet. He wanted to meet the new BCCI President and put his stance. There is no official meeting with him in Delhi," he said.
Also dispelling rumours about a tri-series involving Pakistan and Bangladesh, Thakur said that there focus is just on Indo-Pak bilateral ties.
"Holding a tri-series between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh was never discussed with us, it was never on our agenda. We have been talking only on the Indo-Pak bilateral series, which was due in the month of December. Even in the previous meetings there was no commitment from the BCCI side.
"Because we were clear that we need to discuss all this with the union government. And there were few pending discussions with the PCB and BCCI and till the time they are not resolved we cannot go to the union government and take a final call," he said.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the two boards in 2014 to play five bilateral-series till 2023 -- in an eight-year cycle. But Thakur said that some things go beyond an MoU when it comes to relations between two nations.
"It's not only about MoU, it's also about the prevalent conditions and the relationship where it stands today. And I think PCB chairman wanted to meet the new-elected President to talk about pending issues which we could not resolve earlier.
SO once we resolve those issues then only we will go and talk to the union government and that stage has not arrived," he said. (With inputs from PTI)