EVEN AS senior officials from Himachal Pradesh asked BCCI to explore an alternate venue for the World Twenty20 match between India and Pakistan to be held in Dharamsala on March 19, a huge question mark has emerged over the Pakistani team’s arrival at the picturesque venue.
According to a report in the Dawn newspaper, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has delayed the departures of its men’s and women’s teams due to “security concerns”. The report said that the security team sent by Pakistan to Dharamsala wasn’t convinced by the “response facilities” on offer at the venue.
“Despite assurances by the Indian government regarding team’s security, Himachal Pradesh’s state administration lacks quick response facilities which may endanger lives and property of the Pakistan squad,” the report said.
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“PCB has delayed the national women’s and men’s cricket teams from travelling to India. The final decision on the teams’ departure to India for the T20 World Cup will be taken after a formal go-ahead by the interior ministry,” PCB director media Amjad Hussain was quoted as saying in the Pakistani newspaper.
It’s learnt that PCB chief Shahrayar Khan had already written to the BCCI to shift the India-Pakistan clash to either Mohali or Kolkata. The BCCI insisted on Tuesday that the match will be played in Dharamsala — but it has earmarked Bengaluru as a possible alternate venue.
Sources told The Indian Express that senior officials from Himachal Pradesh asked BCCI officials on Tuesday to explore an alternate venue during a “pre-scheduled” meeting chaired by Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the Ministry of Home Affairs M K Singla.
The meeting was attended by BCCI officials, including Tournament Director Dr M V Sridhar and former Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar who is a consultant for the BCCI’s anti-corruption unit. Himachal Pradesh’s Additional Chief Secretary (Home) P C Bhiman, State DGP Sanjay Kumar and Intelligence Bureau officers also attended.
“The match is on. The state and central governments are on board and all security arrangements have been made. All the matches will take place as scheduled,” said Sridhar.
However, he acknowledged that some issues were yet to be sorted out between the state and Centre.
According to sources, the Himachal officials said an alternate venue should be explored, keeping in mind the sentiments of Kangra-based families of martyrs and ex-servicemen, who consider hosting Pakistan as an “insult” to the soldiers who lost their lives in the Pathankot terror attack.
They also told the Centre that even if security forces are deployed at the ground, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s had given clear instructions that they would not be allowed to lathi-charge or push any protestors.
“It’s up to the BCCI to select a venue and change the venue. We have expressed whatever are the sentiments of the people on the ground, what different groups and political parties have been expressing,” DGP Kumar told The Indian Express.
As per the official schedule, the Pakistan team will first play a match in Kolkata, before heading to Delhi and proceeding to Dharamsala. It will then play two matches at Mohali.