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Indian fans express their outrage

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NEW DELHI, India -- Hundreds of cricket fans across India burnt effigies, defaced posters and held mock funeral processions of the national team, a day after their defeat to Sri Lanka in the World Cup match in the Caribbean.

In a repetition of scenes in Pakistan, after their team's humiliating exit a week earlier, furious cricket followers throughout India took to the streets to express their outrage and disappointment.

Winners in 1983 and finalists in the last tournament, India suffered a 69-run defeat in their crunch Group B match against Sri Lanka and their slim hopes of progressing now hinge on an unlikely defeat for Bangladesh by debutants Bermuda on Sunday.

Cricket is taken very seriously in India, where players are treated as huge celebrities, paid big money to endorse major commercial brands and put on pedestals by cricket-crazy fans.

In the northern city of Kanpur, dozens of residents held a mock funeral procession where people dressed as the 11 cricket players were carried on stretchers through the streets.

"Everyone should leave this cricket team, we should have new youngsters with much more power and more aggression and all these old team members should retire," said one angry fan.

In other places, fans burnt effigies, stamped on glossy posters of players and daubed their faces with black paint. Others lashed out at pictures with their shoes.

"It was such a waste of time to see India lose one wicket after another and finally lose the match, I don't want to even talk about it," said Jatin Panchal, a businessman in the western city of Ahmedabad.

Stepped up

Security has been stepped up outside the residences of some of the cricketers, including captain Rahul Dravid's home in the southern city of Bangalore, for fears of an attack or stone-pelting by fans.

Policemen were deployed outside the home of Indian wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in eastern India.

Another house belonging to Dhoni, currently being built, was the target of disappointed fans last Sunday after India's shock defeat against Bangladesh.

"Four policemen have been posted outside his house. Another two are at the other house under construction, which was attacked earlier," said M.S Bhatia, police superintendent in Ranchi, Dhoni's home town. The house being built is also in Ranchi.

"We had great expectations from Dhoni, but he scored zero in two matches," said protester Amit Kumar.

The World Cup-frenzy in the country has been fueled by a multitude of television channels and media houses who have touted the team as favorites and tracked the action minute-by-minute after the team's arrival in the Caribbean.

In the eastern city of Kolkata, travel agents said many fans planning to travel to the Caribbean to watch India compete in the Super Eight -- the last eight remaining teams -- had cancelled their bookings.

"At least a dozen persons, who had booked their tickets to the Caribbean to watch India battle in the Super Eights next week have already called to cancel their trip," travel agent Anil Punjabi said, adding travel agents stood to lose millions of rupees from booking cancellations.

Sumanta Banerjee, 41, was planning to fly to the Caribbean next week to watch India play in the next round, but changed his plans immediately after India's defeat.

"I would rather go to Thailand for holidays now," he said.

Chappell doubt

Greg Chappell's future as India coach was inevitably under the spotlight.

The former Australia captain's two-year term comes up for renewal in May and his chances of extending that contract appear to be very slim.

"Our agreement with the coach is until the World Cup, so that agreement is over. The board will decide on the future course of action," Indian board president Sharad Pawar told reporters.

Chappell's tenure with India has yielded mixed results since he took over in May 2005 from New Zealand's John Wright, who served as India's first foreign coach for almost five years.

A 1-0 test series victory last year in the Caribbean after 35 years was one of the high points.

But the failure to qualify for the semifinals of the Champions Trophy as hosts last year and a probable first-round exit from the World Cup do not bode well for Chappell..


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Pictures of the Indian players are defaced by outraged cricket supporters.

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