The India versus Pakistan World T20 match that was supposed to be played in Dharamsala on March 19, has been relocated to Eden Gardens in Kolkata. This follows the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) disapproval of the picturesque hill station as a match venue, citing security reasons. A request had been made by PCB chief Shahryar Khan to the ICC to move the fixture out of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) stadium. The governing body of world cricket agreed.
“The decision has been taken following consultation with the BCCI, the relevant state associations, the ICC and BCCI security consultant and other relevant authorities.
“The decision to relocate the match has been made for security reasons. The concerns initially arose following alleged public comments recently reported by the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, warning of demonstrations and attempts to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the match,” ICC chief executive David Richardson said.
To be fair, the ICC didn’t have an option but to play hardball with Dharamsala. With Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh reportedly telling the Pakistan security team that his government couldn’t guarantee any security for the match, the PCB refused to play in Dharamsala.
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“As chief minister, it’s my duty to extend full support to the BCCI for holding World T20 and I have given my consent. However, I have objection to the India-Pakistan match in the wake of Pathankot attack at the Indian Air Force base involving Pakistani militants,” Singh had earlier told this paper. He stuck to his guns and cricket became a prisoner of politics.
According to a BCCI source, the Indian cricket board pre-empted this and put the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) on stand-by list. “BCCI president Shashank Manohar and CAB president Sourav Ganguly had spoken over phone last week after clouds of uncertainty started to loom over Dharamsala. The latter requested Manohar to pick Kolkata in case of a switch. The cricket board selected Eden Gardens as its first choice and the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore as a backup.
The PCB’s options also included Kolkata, along with Mohali. Eventually, all parties agreed that Eden Gardens, which can accommodate over 67,000 spectators, should be the best fit for such a grand spectacle.
Ganguly, however, stood by Dharamsala. “I feel for Dharamsala. I sympathize with Anurag (Thakur). They have one of the best stadiums in India and they are missing out for no fault of theirs. At the same time, I’m happy. This has been going on for a while and we requested the BCCI because it’s Eden Gardens; because of its history,” he said on Tuesday.
The former India captain admitted that work now has to be done on war footing. “Organisation and logistics won’t be that difficult but ticketing would be tough. We are getting tickets for this game on March 12. Two days will go for stamping and only then, public sale can begin,” said Ganguly. Tickets would be priced at Rs 500, 1,000 and 1,500.
“As far as those who have purchased tickets online for the match, they will be offered the choice of a full refund or the opportunity to exchange their tickets for ones for the Kolkata match,” said the ICC release.
Dharamsala’s pain is CAB’s gain, and the whole development has left BCCI secretary Thakur, who is also the head of HPCA, frustrated. “I don’t know how will the fans react? Himachal government has embarrassed the country.
“Thousands of people who have already planned this well in advance… I don’t know how they will react when the state falls short of providing security and creating a good atmosphere. They (Congress) have again proved that for them it is family first, party second and nation last. The kind of environment they have created, embarrasses the country and the kind of projection they have given is not fair on part of any CM,” Thakur was quoted as saying.
From Pakistan’s point of view, they would obviously be happy with the change. They haven’t ever lost a game against India at Eden Gardens.
For Eden Gardens, this has been sort of poetic justice as well. The ICC had moved out the marquee India versus England 2011 World Cup fixture from here under the pretext of incomplete renovation work of the stadium. Five years down the line, the most anticipated clash of this World T20 will be hosted at the Eden Gardens.
The story so far…