Air space over Old Trafford may be ‘no-fly zone’

Leeds: The air space above Old Trafford in Manchester and Edgbaston in Birmingham will turn into a 'No-Fly Zone' during the two semifinals on July 9 and July 11, respectively, There is good reason for concern: planes displaying anti-India banners flew over the Headingley ground during the World Cup match between India and Sri Lanka on Saturday. Minutes after the match began, an aircraft carrying a message -- '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 seen with a banner, 'Help End Mob Lynching'. Taking a call on the obnoxious messages, a miffed BCCI has written to the ICC stating that aircraft flying over the stadium with anti-India banners is "unacceptable." It has also raised concerns over the safety of its players. "This is completely unacceptable. We have written to the ICC, raising our concerns about what happened in Headingley. 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 Board's plan of action told PTI.

The BCCI also wants clarity on the process put in place to avoid such a fiasco in Manchester when India play New Zealand. In the letter to the ICC, in possession of IANS, BCCI Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rahul Johri wrote: "Kindly appraise us of the steps that have been taken by the ICC & the ECB to prevent any untoward incident when India play the semi-final on the 9th in Manchester. At our end we are also in touch with the Indian High Commission in the UK, for them to address the issue with the relevant UK authorities. Please keep us informed." The ICC professes to have zero tolerance for political or racist slogans and has expressed its disappointment at another security breach within 10 days. "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. 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 even though the airspace is their domain. ICC event head Chris Tetley has asked the BCCI to take up the matter with the Indian High Commission in the UK. During the match between Pakistan and Afghanistan, clashes broke out between the fans when jets carrying anti-Pakistan banners unfurled over the stadium. The slogans demanded an end to alleged 'forceful disappearances' in the strife-torn Balochistan.

- Kushan Sarkar

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