Blasts force IPL out of Bangalore

Mumbai to host last three matches

Blasts force IPL out of Bangalore

A bomb squad member defuses a bomb near the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Sunday. DH photo/ S K Dinesh

The semifinals, slated for Wednesday and Thursday, will now be played on the same days at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, IPL chairman Lalit Modi said.

Despite assurances on Sunday by City police officials who promised to “secure” the stadium and its vicinity from Monday morning till Friday morning, a day after the second semifinal, the IPL authorities decided to shift the venue keeping players’ “comfort levels” in mind.

The City police’s bomb disposal sqaud was able to defuse the bombs the first of which was discovered in the morning around 8.30 when police officers were conducting search operations around the stadium.

The squad was alerted after a suspicious fertiliser bag was noticed behind the bus shelter near the Mahatma Gandhi statue in the vicinity. The police recovered two detonators and a timer from the spot.

Around 12.15 pm, another crude bomb was found concealed in a flex column. It appeared the bomb was pushed through a gap under the column.

The shift in the venue, ostensibly for security reasons, will of course dampen the spirits of those who had plans to watch the Royal Challengers Bangalore-Mumbai Indians semi-final at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. On the other hand, despite Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa’s appeal to IPL bosses to reconsider their decision to shift the venue, the state’s image has taken a beating.

“We have taken all possible security measures. The crude devices recovered are minor ones and there is no need to panic. There is no need on the part of the BCCI to take a hasty decision on moving out of Bangalore”, he told reporters after chairing a meeting with senior police officers.

Yeddyurappa is aware that the bomb blasts, regardless of whether it was a terrorist operation, has caused some embarrassment to his government.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, State Home Minister V S Acharya said: “We assured the IPL authorities water-tight security and also that the entire stadium and its surrounding areas would be sanitised before the next game”.

Acharya’s statement echoed the Chief Minister’s concern and appeared a desperate attempt to safeguard Bangalore’s image as a place where international sporting events could take place with full security.

“We told them that combing operations in and around the stadium were on and would continue till every nook and corner is searched. However, they took the decision to shift from Bangalore for their own reasons. I will not comment further”, Acharya said.

A high-level delegation, including Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) president Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar and secretary Brijesh Patel, accompanied by respresentatives of IPL security consultants Nicholls Steyn, met top City police authorities, but it was an exercise that eventually bore little fruit.

“While reluctant to relocate the semifinals at such short notice, Saturday’s incidents have made it clear that the current environment in Bangalore prevents us from continuing with our original plans,” Modi said in a statement.

The move was almost inevitable, given the apprehensions expressed on Saturday by the overseas contingent of Royal Challengers Bangalore in particular after the two blasts that immediately preceded their match against the Mumbai Indians.

Royal Challengers Bangalore will now have to play without the advantage of a raucous, passionate home crowd behind them; equally, Bangaloreans who had geared up to witness the four best teams of IPL III battling out for a place in the final will now have to reconcile themselves to watching the action on television. “It is certainly disappointing,” acknowledged Patel, “but they had to consider what was best for the players. So we just have to accept it.”

It’s too early to speculate on whether the IPL will now compensate the Challengers for missing out on a large chunk of the financial pie after being deprived of hosting status.
KSCA secretary Brijesh Patel did make it clear, though, that all fans who had purchased tickets for the semifinals would receive full refunds.

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