SHAHID AFRIDI & Co’s participation in the World T20 continues to remain in limbo with the Pakistan government still playing hardball with regards to permitting their cricket team to cross the border.
On Thursday, Pakistan Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, insisted that the team’s departure will not be cleared till the Indian government provides a written assurance regarding safety. This comes a day after the high-profile clash between the two neighbours was shifted from Dharamsala to Kolkata, citing security concerns. It is learnt that a senior Indian minister, while assuring that the Pakistanis would be secure dismissed the possibility of providing any assurance in writing.
While talking about the threats as being ‘Pakistan specific’, Khan also claimed that the Pakistan team couldn’t risk playing in front of a lakh of people among other concerns.
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“The threats are Pakistan specific. It is our responsibility that our players do not face any kind of pressure when they play…Unless we get written assurance from the (Indian) government, we will not allow our team to travel to India,” Khan said during a press conference in Islamabad. “How can cricket be played amid threats? Eden Gardens has a capacity of one lakh, what if stone comes from any side. We are just demanding an even playing field,” he added.
BCCI secretary and Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) chief Anurag Thakur put a different spin on the issue while sticking to his guns about India prepared to provide ‘adequate security’ to all teams, including Pakistan.
“If Pakistan wants an excuse that’s a different thing. But India is fully committed to provide adequate security to all teams. The decision lies with Pakistan now. India will provide adequate security to all teams,” he told ANI in response to the latest spanner thrown into the works by the Pakistan government.
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That the BCCI would be a tad miffed with the continued resistance from across the border would be understandable, considering they agreed to shift the match out of Dharamsala as per Pakistan’s demand. Mohali and Kolkata had been the options suggested by Pakistan while the BCCI had seemed keen on taking the match to Bangalore before giving it to Eden Gardens.
Citing a precedent
And Vikas Swaroop, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, cited the example of the SAFF Games that were held last month to emphasize on India’s ability to organize a world event without any security hitch.
“I would like to draw your attention to the fact that all necessary arrangements, including those for security have been made in the past for all international sporting events organised in India. Recently as you are aware, the South Asian Federation Games saw good and enthusiastic participation of all contingents from all SAF countries, including Pakistan. We are confident that the ICC World T20 will also be a resounding success in all aspects,” he said.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief Shahrayar Khan kept the door open for his team to participate in the event, even if it meant arriving in India on the eve of their opening match. “We want to go, we want to play. Whenever the permissions come through, we’ll go, even if it is on the eve of the match,” he said.
Based on the original schedule of the tournament, the Pakistan team should already have been here and preparing to play the first of two warm-ups against Bengal at Kolkata in preparation for the main event. They play their opening match in the league stages against a qualifier on March 16 at the same venue.
But unfortunately for Afridi & Co, while the rest of the cricket world warms up for the big event with a series of practice matches, they sit twiddling their thumbs, waiting on their government for a green signal to at least leave for India.