There appears to be a serious concern among the Pakistan cricket fraternity about sending their team to India for the upcoming World T20. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief Shahryar Khan reportedly raised the issue during the recently-concluded ICC Board meeting in Dubai, and he has his supporters back home. The BCCI, however, doesn’t seem to be overtly concerned and expects Pakistan to be here for the ICC event.
Khan said Pakistan’s visit to India was subject to clearance from the Pakistan government which might not give the go-ahead due to specific security threats. He added that a proposal had been floated to hold Pakistan’s World T20 fixtures at neutral venues like “Dubai, Sharjah or Colombo” if the government didn’t allow the team to go to India.
Former ICC president Ehsan Mani feels it’s a genuine concern as the PCB can’t compromise on player safety.
“Obviously there’s a serious concern in Pakistan. Player safety is paramount as far as the PCB is concerned. Some recent incidents (in India) have been alarming. Ahead of a former Pakistan foreign minister’s book launch the organiser was attack. Pakistani artistes have not been allowed to perform in some parts of India. This is the reality at the moment and the PCB has every right to be concerned about the safety and security of the Pakistan cricketers,” Mani said, speaking to The Indian Express.
In October last year, barely hours before ex-Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book launch in Mumbai, former journalist Sudheendra Kulkarni, the main organiser of the event, was attacked with black paint by some Shiv Sena activists. Ustad Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai and Pune that month, too, had to be cancelled following Shiv Sena’s protest. The Pakistani ghazal maestro performed in Kolkata a few months later.
Shahryar ‘s comment about moving Pakistan’s matches to neutral venues sounds a little far-fetched, but Mani says the ICC has the provision to relocate matches/tournaments on security grounds. “Remember, the ICC had dropped Pakistan as a co-host of the 2011 World Cup due to security reasons. Then again, Australia pulled out of the ongoing Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh citing security threats but the tournament went ahead without them. It’s for the ICC to decide…”
Mani, however, claims that the uncertainties have got nothing to do with India not playing a bilateral series against Pakistan in December. A short series was planned in Sri Lanka but the BCCI didn’t get the nod from the Union government. “The BCCI’s attitude was disappointing. I have always maintained that politics shouldn’t come into bilateral cricket ties. But this is certainly not a tit for tat measure. The PCB is concerned about player safety,” said Mani. The World T20 would be played from March 8 to April 3. Pakistan are scheduled to play their group league matches in Kolkata, Dharamsala and Mohali.