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The soldier who guards Pakistan

October 19, 2006 15:20 IST

Colonel Anil Kaul, a Vir Chakra recipient, served in the Indian army for over 20 years; he lost his right eye and the fingers of his left hand during one of the military operations; and tried to curb cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir in administrative capacity.

Today, he is engaged in ensuring the safety of the Pakistan cricket team. Kaul, 55, who retired last year, was appointed as security in-charge of the Pakistan cricket team, in India to play the Champions Trophy.

"Pakistanis having to take my permission before stepping out of the hotel; what more can one ask for?" jokes Kaul, while arranging for a smooth check-out for the players from the team hotel in Jaipur.

It was just another busy day in a busy life. The Pakistan players, having scripted a fairy tale win against Sri Lanka at the Sawai Man Singh stadium on Tuesday, wanted to make the most of their last day in the city by visiting monuments and such in and around the city.

Kaul and his men were more interested in ensuring their wards stayed safe and secure - and the security presence at the team hotel, where armed policemen patrolled every exit and entrance, and the floors the players stayed on, was proof of their zealousness.

"It is essential that we have these security arrangements," said Kaul. "It's not just the Shiv Sena threats, there are other groups also. It is a very sensitive issue."

Kaul, whose father was born in Pakistan, served in the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, with distinction. He was permanently disabled on October 12, 1987, when an LTTE militant shot at his tank with a rocket-launcher.

'The projectile hit the left mudguard of the tank, but for some inexplicable reason did not explode,' Kaul writes in his book Better Dead than Disabled. 'It then hit the side of the main gun and exploded on top of the turret, all in the fraction of a second. I felt I had received a straight punch, so to say, on the chin.

'I saw some blood on my left hand, but in a blur, as my vision seemed to be impaired. I slid back into the cupola and had to ask my gunner where the gun was aimed.'

The right eye, or whatever remains of it, is distorted behind the tinted glasses he now wears, and a black glove covers the left hand. Disabled or no, Kaul is enjoying every bit of the new task given to him.

How did a third-generation army man get involved in cricket?

"Who in India does not want to be involved in cricket?" he asks with a smile. "I got a call from the ICC, and I readily accepted the offer."

Deepti Patwardhan