Hardik Patel knows the popularity of cricket in India. It is therefore no surprise that the former junior cricketer-turned-fledgling politician has chosen an international cricket match to showcase his agitation for the Patidar community. (Cuttack Joins Hall of Shame in International Cricket After Security Lets Odisha Down)
Patel, the 22-year-old convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), said 10000 members of the Patel community would "peacefully" demonstrate their demands during the third India versus South Africa ODI in Rajkot on October 18.
Saurashtra Cricket Association officials are worried that an agitation could disrupt the match for security reasons. The Cuttack crowd trouble during the second Twenty20 match on October 5 has already earned India some bad publicity.Â (Incidents of Fan Brawls That Shamed The Gentleman's Game)
"It is a very serious matter. If something happens, it will spoil the image of Rajkot and we will not get international matches in future," Niranjan Shah, president of Saurashtra Cricket Association, told the local media in Rajkot on Wednesday.
"We have bought around 1,000 tickets and would buy more tickets in days to come. Our members will wear specially made T-shirts printed with 'Jay Sardar.'
"We will showcase our demands sitting in the gallery during the match without causing any disruption," said Patel, who has been agitating for three months demanding special status for the Patidars. Chief minister Anandiben Patel has decided to stay away from the ODI, sources told NDTV.
Security arrangements in Rajkot are already on an overdrive. Non-transferable tickets are being sold on production of original ID cards. Placards have been added to the list of banned articles. The 27,000-capacity new Khanderi stadium will be hosting its third international.
"If there are any attempts to spark trouble, we will initiate stringent police action. If anyone tries to carry out protests inside the stadium, they will be forcibly evacuated," said Shah.(India vs South Africa: Sachin Tendulkar Urges Fans To Show Maturity After Cuttack Incident)
Rajkot is no stranger to crowd trouble. During the India versus West Indies series in 2002-03, play had to be stopped after water bottles were hurled at Caribbean players during India's chase. Vasbert Drakes and Ryan Hinds were at the receiving end.
(With inputs from Rohit Bhan)