New Delhi/Mumbai, May 18 - The cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) was hit by a double whammy Friday with an Australian player being arrested for assault and Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan being banned for five years from Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium after a scuffle with security staff. One former India cricketer went to the extent of demanding that the IPL, that has been drawing record crowds and TV audiences, be scrapped.
The situation was exacerbated by Siddharth Mallya, the owner of the Royal Challengers Bangalore for which Australian Luke Pomersbach plays. In a tweet hours after the cricketer was arrested for allegedly molesting an American woman in a five-star hotel in the national capital and beating up her fiance, who was hospitalised with severe injuries, Mallya suggested that the shoe was on the other foot.
'The girl who is accusing Luke is saying he hit her 'fiance'...what a load of f****** s***. She was all over me last night and asked for me bbm pin, so if he was her fiance she wasn't exactly behaving like a future wife,' Mallya tweeted.
The woman's lawyer immediate shot back, threatening to sue Mallya.
The Australian High Commission sent a diplomat to meet the cricketer and was also in touch with Delhi Police to provide him legal assistance.
Pomersbach is alleged to have molested the woman, Zohail Hameed, at the ITC Maurya hotel in New Delhi. Her fiance Sahil Peerzada, who is in his 30s, was beaten up by the player when he tried to stop him and was admitted to Primus hospital in the diplomatic area of the national capital, police said.
'A case has been registered. Luke is in custody...The lady has complained that Pomersbach had molested her and after he had left the room he came back again and tried to force his entry into the room,' Additional Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) K.C. Dwivedi said.
Pomersback was later released on interim bail till Saturday on a personal bond of Rs.20,000.
Doctors attending on Peerzada said that his condition was stable but he may suffer from hearing loss in his left ear.
Giving details of the incident, Hameed told a television channel that it happened when Pomersbach, along with some others, joined them for a drink. She also alleged that the hotel staff did not cooperate with her in calling the police.
RCB owner Vijay Mallya said he regretted the incident. 'RCB will give full cooperation to authorities for fair investigation and so that the case if disposed of in accordance with law. He (Pomersbach) won't be taking the field till the matter is sorted out.'
Pomersbach has a controversial past. Back home, he has been penalised for multiple off-the-field incidents.
Pomersbach, a left-handed batsman, has been playing since the first edition of the IPL. He started with Kings XI Punjab and then to RCB. He hasn't made much of a mark and is yet to play a match in IPL-V.
The IPL management, which just a day earlier was fielding questions on the fracas between Shah Rukh Khan and security personnel and officials at the Wankhede stadium, said it was not responsible for the behaviour of individual players.
In India's financial capital, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) Friday a five-year ban on Shah Rukh Khan, co-owner of IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders, from entering the Wankhede Stadium over his alleged misbehaviour at the ground Wednesday night.
'The managing committee of MCA condemns the behaviour of Shah Rukh Khan. After his fight at the stadium Wednesday night, the actor has shown no regrets for his action and behaviour. In fact, he justified his actions. The managing committee is forced to ban Mr Shah Rukh Khan from the entering Wankhede Stadium,' MCA chief Vilasrao Deshmukh, a union minister, said after an emergency meeting of the Assocaition.
Not surprisingly, Shah Rukh Khan's friends and colleagues from the film industry rallied behind him, saying his actions were wise and whatever he did was justified.
Karan Johar best summed up the feeling when he posted on Twitter: 'SRK is one of the best fathers i know....and protective about every child...he was being just that....a protective parent!!! Why blame a man who was just reacting as a father....who wouldn't have done the same in his place???'
The twin controversies prompted BJP MP Kirti Azad, a member of the team that won the 1983 World Cup, to demand that the IPL be 'closed' and threatened to go on a fast from May 20 against the event.
'...IPL I suppose is only entertainment... but we have money laundering, we have violation of foreign exchange, we have one player slapping another, there was a sting operation for spot fixing, now rape was left... that has also come in,' Azad said.
The fifth edition of the IPL began April 2 and by the time it concludes May 27, 76 matches would have been played. The League has nine teams, some with as many as 11 foreign players. However, only four foreign players can turn out for a team in a match.