New Delhi: The opening match of the Indian Premier League in March has been shifted out of Hyderabad due to ongoing protests over the proposed creation of a new state, a top official said on Friday.
The match between defending champions the Deccan Chargers and the Kolkata Knight Riders, which was due to be held in Hyderabad on 12 March, will now be played in Mumbai, IPL commissioner Lalit Modi told reporters.
Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state, has seen unrest over the past few weeks after the federal government announced in December that the region would be carved in two to create a separate state of Telangana.
Protesters on Thursday disrupted a Twenty20 cricket match organised by the Deccan Chargers franchise in Hyderabad.
“The first match of the IPL’s new season will now be held in Mumbai on 12 March,” said Modi. “The opening match and the gala dinner the previous evening are very important for us.
“People from all over the world are coming and we are going to make sure that everything is in order. We don’t want to take any chances.
“There are no changes to other matches, everything looks fine.”
Hyderabad were due to host the seven home matches of the Chargers.
Two weeks ago, an influential right-wing Hindu party in Mumbai warned that it would try to stop Australian cricketers playing in parts of India because of attacks on Indians living Down Under.
Bal Thackeray, who heads the radical Shiv Sena party, said activists planned to disrupt matches involving Australians, like they did ahead of a Test match against Pakistan in New Delhi in 1999, when they dug up the pitch.
Two major cities in Maharashtra, Mumbai and Nagpur, are due to host IPL matches and Shiv Sena is particularly influential in the state.
Two former Australian stars, Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds, play for the Deccan Chargers team. Other notable Aussies in the glitzy Twenty20 league are Matthew Hayden, Brett Lee and Shane Watson.
There has been a spate of attacks against Indian students in Australia over the past 18 months which have soured ties between the two countries.
The IPL is already embroiled in controversy after no Pakistani player was picked up in Tuesday’s auction by the eight cash-rich franchises, setting off a diplomatic row between India and Pakistan.