Pawar meets Thackeray, asks to drop ban on Aussie cricketers

MUMBAI: Sharad Pawar, India''s minister for agriculture and president of the Maharashtra Cricket Association, met the founder of Shiv Sena, Bal Thackeray, and his son, Udav, here on Sunday and requested them to take back their threat given to Australian cricketers regarding their participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Pawar was accompanied by Indian cricket board president Shashank Manohar.

They asked Shiv Sena to keep politics out of sport and lift the ban on Australian cricketers playing in Mumbai and the state of Maharashtra, imposed in retaliation for attacks on Indians students in Australia.

Thackeray agreed to consider it.

Manohar said Thackeray had given him and Pawar a good hearing. The ban threatened to disrupt the rich Indian Premier League that starts next month.

''''We tried to convince him that only one or two Australian players will participate in the IPL matches and by not allowing all IPL matches it''s the state players who will lose ultimately,'''' he said.

Reports in the Indian media yesterday suggested Shiv Sena had agreed to drop its ban but a Shiv Sena leader Diwakar Raote said it had not made up its mind.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India is preparing a presentation for Thackeray on the IPL format and the number of Australian players taking part.

About 20 Australian players including Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson and Mike Hussey are contracted to play in the IPL along with retired greats Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden.