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NEW DELHI: International players like Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma and Rishabh Pant, along with their other Delhi teammates, on Friday survived a major security scare during their Ranji Trophy match against Uttar Pradesh when a youngster drove his car onto the pitch at the Palam Grounds here when the exciting final session of the play was underway.
In a first incident of its kind, a Delhi resident, named Girish Sharma, from Buddh Vihar locality came driving down his Wagon R car in full speed and entered the field of play upon finding that no guard was stationed at the Air Force stadium gate.
As the Delhi fielders and UP batsmen – Akshdeep Nath and Imtiaz Ahmed – scurried for covers to save themselves from getting hit by the car, Girish, who claimed to be working with the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) at its Parliament Street branch, tried to make an “8” on the pitch as if he has come for a driving test to get his learner’s license.
Such was the security scare that while taking a sharp turn on the pitch, Girish missed hitting out-of-favour Indian opener, Gautam Gambhir, by a whisker as the Delhi batsman just managed to get out of his way.
As Girish tried to flee the scene, dodging the on-rushing spectators, an Air Force security guard, Anubhaw Kumar, managed to stop him at the entry gate and handed him over to his seniors. However, Kumar, who was actually stationed at the gate but was enjoying the proceedings near the pavilion area at the time of the incident, couldn’t manage to escape the wrath of his seniors and was immediately taken off the duty.
Girish, who was beaten up by the security staff attached with the Delhi team and the Air Force personnel, later told the interrogators that he did so out of his “love for the game” and to earn his “two minutes of fame”.
Later, while speaking to TOI, Girish came out with this bizarre explanation: “I was on my way back to the Buddh Vihar after dropping my sister at the domestic airport. She was flying to Bengaluru to join back her work. On my way, I realised that a cricket match is happening at the Palam Grounds. So, I thought of watching the match for some time. But, upon realising that no one is guarding the entry gate, I took my car on to the field and tried to meet the players. You see, there was no one to guide me where to park the vehicle, so I thought of parking it on the field itself.”
However, another security guard employed by the Air Force had a different take on the matter: “In the morning, a spectator climbed up the stadium’s boundary wall and tried to enter the field of play. He was let off only after a sound thrashing by the Air Force personnel. This guy Girish is a friend of that spectator and had come to take revenge of his insult. He himself admitted to this.” When TOI asked Girish about it, he rubbished the theory.
When Ishant was approached for his reaction, he had only this to say: “It’s, of course, a major security breach. We couldn’t understand for a moment what just happened.” Another Delhi team management official said, “I have never seen such incident in the cricket history. This is the first time it has happened. I could recall digging of pitches by right-wing groups or some other incidents, but not this one in my entire cricketing life.”
Match referee, Narayanan Kutty, later said: “We have called the Delhi police. He would be handed over to them for further interrogation. The match would continue as scheduled on the fourth and final day. The players haven’t spoken out to me in this direction. We are treating it as a stray incident. But, all said and done, it’s a major security breach and one would have to be very careful about such incidents in the future.”
Investigation officer from Air Force, Suren Kumar Baral, refused to speak to the media, citing protocols.