Decks have been cleared for the Pakistan cricket team’s visit to India for the ongoing World T20. A letter from West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, assuring “absolute security” for the Pakistan side during their stay in Kolkata, did the trick with the Pakistan government eventually approving their team’s participation in the ICC event. Banerjee wrote the letter on Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president Sourav Ganguly’s request. “I personally requested her (for a formal assurance),” Ganguly told The Indian Express. The Pakistan team led by Shahid Afridi is expected to land in Kolkata at 7.40pm on Saturday.
The Pakistan government had asked for a “public guarantee” of security from its Indian counterpart before approving the men and women teams’ participation in the World T20. After Ganguly had forwarded Banerjee’s letter – Kolkata’s police commissioner Rajeev Kumar also wrote a separate letter, guaranteeing security – to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB); Najam Sethi, chairman of the PCB’s executive committee, called on Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
“Good news. Bengal CM and Union Home Minister and ICC and BCCI have all given public assurances of security to Pak team,” Sethi tweeted. “Subsequently, interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has also approved Pakistan’s participation in the T20 World Cup. The team is completely ready and hopefully they will fly to Dubai tonight and then from there will leave straight for India,” he was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.
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Following a meeting at the North Block, New Delhi, with Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi on Friday afternoon, High Commissioner of Pakistan Abdul Basit said Mehrishi had assured security for the Pakistan cricket team.
PCB chief Shaharyar Khan told reporters in Lahore that the players had been given the “pullout option” but all 15 members of the squad wanted to play the World T20. He hoped that the cricketing ties between India and Pakistan would remain active.
The arch-rivals would lock horns at Eden Gardens on March 19. The ICC had shifted the most high-profile fixture of the World T20 from Dharamsala to Kolkata after the Himachal Pradesh government reportedly failed to ensure foolproof security for the game. PCB’s security expert Mohammad Azam Khan informed that a three-member Pakistan security team had dropped in at Kolkata after visiting Dharamsala.
“Kolkata was adjudged the most secure venue. I visited Dharamsala and found that the entry and exit passages for VIP movements were very narrow and insecure. Moreover, Himachal Pradesh chief minister (Virbhadra Singh) had told our team that the state government wouldn’t be able to ensure security. Twice he told us that the match couldn’t be held there,” Khan told this paper.
While relocating the India versus Pakistan match from Dharamsala to Kolkata, ICC chief executive David Richardson had said: “Our concerns relate both to uncertainty as to the level of those threats as well as the level of commitment to implement any security plan developed to mitigate such threats. “The decision was not taken lightly. The ICC and the BCCI understand the disappointment that is likely to be felt by many over the decision to move the match. But the safety and security of the event is of paramount importance to the ICC and we have taken into consideration the concerns shared with us by our security advisors as well as the Pakistan Cricket Board.”
But the Pakistan government still demanded a “public guarantee” of security for the players. The Pakistan’s interior minister had reiterated his government’s stand during a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday.