Fans carrying the Pakistan flag into the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium for Sunday’s Group 2 game involving Bangladesh may be turned away if they are not citizens of Pakistan. The Bangladesh versus Pakistan match will be played under the watchful eye of securitymen who will stop spectators from carrying any flag other than the one belonging to their country of birth.
Oversized flags that attract attention to groups of spectators and flag poles that pose a security threat will also be banned in the stadium.
A security officer involved in the World T20 said there are “unofficial instructions” that Bangladeshis should not be allowed to carry foreign flags. “The instructions were given ahead of the India-Pakistan game on March 21. The Bangladesh vs Pakistan match is also considered sensitive and we don’t want any incident in the stands involving spectators. Fans must only carry flags of their country of birth.
The World T20 has been incident-free and we want to keep it like that,” the officer said.
The tournament is being held in the backdrop of violence following the trial of Islamists convicted of crimes during the 1971 war which liberated Bangladesh from Pakistan with the help of Indian armed forces.
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Ahead of Sunday’s game, the International Cricket Council has also made enquires with the Bangladesh Cricket Board on the exact nature of the restriction on flags.
“We have informed the ICC that the BCB has not banned spectators from carrying any flag of their choice to the stadium. But at the same time, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Flag Rules, which put restrictions on use of foreign flags, will be in force. Security agencies will have to ensure that flag rules are not broken,” a BCB official said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan are poised to take a step forward towards the semifinals as they face the out-of-sorts hosts. A win against Bangladesh will make the West Indies versus Pakistan clash on April 1 a virtual quarter-final.
“I think it’s very clear now. We have to win each and every game and can’t afford to make any mistakes. We will take confidence from the last game, when we came through despite being in a difficult situation. Everyone showed good spirit,” Pakistan skipper Mohammed Hafeez said at the pre-match press conference.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, will be hoping against hope that they are able to pull off an upset. Their premier all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, in fact, made it clear that they are not even hoping for a semi-final berth at the moment.
“After losing the last two games, the morale is obviously down but the beauty of T20 cricket is that you can always come back in the next game. There’s no team that can say it will win. It’s so short, if you make a mistake, it’s hard to come back. Mathematically, may be, we can qualify for semifinal, but it is very hard for us to win two games and qualify,” Shakib said.
The only advantage Shakib feels is the lack of expectations that will enable them to play with free minds. “The pressure will be less and that is the biggest thing. Hopefully, that will give us confidence to perform and may be cause an upset. The crowd knows that we can perform.”