The World Twenty20 match between India and Pakistan scheduled for 19 March has been switched from Dharamsala to Kolkata but Pakistan continue to delay their departure for the tournament over security concerns. ESPNcricinfo reports that the Pakistan Cricket Board response is not knee jerk and limited to the immediate issue but has been festering over months.
Writing in ESPNcricinfo, Umer Farooq says "The PCB's response is not a trigger-happy one to events of the last 24 hours. It has built up over a few months, and reached tipping point when a scheduled meeting between the PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan and BCCI officials was cancelled due to anti-Pakistan protests in the BCCI's Mumbai office.
The talks were to discuss the possibility of a long overdue bilateral series between the two nations." Farooq goes on to say that if Pakistan is not convinced about foolproof arrangements, it may just pull out.
Late Wednesday evening, ICC CEO Dave Richardson announced that the match, to be played on March 19, would be shifted to Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
He said: “The decision has been taken for security reasons, following consultations with the BCCI, the State associations, the ICC and BCCI security consultants."
Reporting in The Hindu, Rakesh Rao says those who have already bought tickets for the match can exchange it for tickets at Eden Gardens or get a refund.
The much anticipated match was thrown into jeopardy after Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh expressed inability to provide security for the match, prompting Pakistan to send a three-member delegation to assess the security situation.
The ICC finally announced the relocation of the match to the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata where Pakistan will be based for the initial stages of the event.
The Qualifiers of the World Twenty20 are in progress while the main stage will be held from 15 March to 3 April. Pakistan will play their matches in Mohali and Kolkata.
PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan welcomes venue change
PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan welcomed the ICC’s decision to shift the venue for the marquee India-Pakistan World T20 clash from Dharamsala to Kolkata but kept the Pakistan team’s departure on hold awaiting an assurance from the Indian government.
“Both men and women teams (departure) have been deferred. I have also informed this to the government because it has asked for my opinion,” Shaharyar said at a press conference.
Shaharyar’s response came after the International Cricket Council announced in New Delhi the relocation of the Indo-Pak tie on March 19 from Dharamsala to Kolkata due to security reasons.
“I have told them that Kolkata is fine as venue and we welcome and appreciate it. But the Indian government from their side must also give us an assurance on the danger,” the PCB chief said.
“Pakistan government has not talked with the Indian government. This threat is on us so the PCB has talked with the Indian government. It is the PCB that is raising this issue with the BCCI, ICC and the government of India that this assurance should be given by India. We have not given any deadline,” added Shaharyar.
The match ran into trouble after the Himachal Pradesh government expressed its inability to provide security for the match.
Himachal CM backs out, forcing venue change
"The concerns initially arose following alleged public comments recently reported by the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, warning of demonstration and attempts to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the match. 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 treats," Richardson said explaining the decision.
Richardson said they were not left with any other choice but to move the match out of the hill city and it was loss for Dharamsala to not host such a high-profile fixture.
"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 Pakistan Cricket Board," the ICC CEO said.
Onus on Pak, says ICC
Richardson said the onus now was on Pakistan to send the team since their apprehensions have been addressed.
"We have done the best possible security arrangements and if they do not come now, we will have to take the legal route. It will be very unjustified, if they do not come," he said.
Asked if the BCCI or state association (HPCA) would face any sanction, Richardson replied in the negative.
"We understand the circumstances. India is a big and complicated country and there are challenges with every ICC event. It is the best decision to shift the match to Kolkata. It's not unprecedented. It's unfortunate these concerns were raised. It was better if raised early. It's a difficult decision. We wanted to stick to the original plan but we were forced into (relocation),"Richardson said.
"ICC has not lost faith in India. There are huge logistics challenges. There are 59 matches in total, across eight venues. And first time with women matches are also being held (with men's event.)
"It is too early to take any disciplinary action against state association. If we didn't have the match then we would have had more grounds but here we have relocated the match and it was the best option," he said.
Richardson also made it clear that if Pakistan made it to the semifinals, they will not play in Mumbai, which is scheduled to host one semifinal.
BCCI secretary Anrurag Thakur, also HPCA President, on his part lashed out at the Congress-led Himachal Pradesh government saying they tarnished the image of the state and country by forcing the match out of Dharamsala.
"I think it gives a wrong impression about the country, about the state which is not in the interest of a country like India. Due to one state not delivering why should India get a bad name," an angry Thakur told reporters on the sidelines of a promotional event here.
"All I can say is that the negative atmosphere created by the ruling party doesn't go well with the fans, sponsors and the country as a host. They (Himachal Pradesh government) have left no stone unturned to destroy the image of the state and the country. To give different statements everyday has probably become their habit," he said.
With inputs from PTI