Pakistan’s participation in the high-profile World Twenty20 event continued to be shrouded in suspense with the country’s government refusing to clear the team’s departure unless India provides written assurance of security.
“We are not in a position to give clearance right now. 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,” Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters.
“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, referring to the marquee clash against India on March 19 which was shifted from Dharamsala to Kolkata due to security concerns.
Amid the continuing logjam, the Indian government said all necessary arrangements are always made for major sporting events, citing the recent South Asian Games which were held without a hitch in Assam last month.
“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,” ministry of external affairs spokesperson Vikas Swaroop said in New Delhi.
“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.
The ICC has already stated that the onus is 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.
Pakistan Cricket Board’s media director, Amjad Hussain, said that the team will stay put in the National Cricket Academy in Lahore till the time the issue is not resolved.
“As the interior minister very clearly said that we want explicit assurance from the Indian government. I see no problem in them giving an assurance as they are the host country. It’s their responsibility, the ball is very much in the Indian government’s court,” Hussain said.
Earlier in the day, PCB chief Shaharyar Khan had visited the NCA to give a pep talk to the team camping there.
“Our chairman spoke to the boys for a good amount of time. He gave a motivational speech and told them to be tournament-ready,” Hussain added.
On Wednesday, Pakistan’s clash against India in Dharamsala was moved out 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 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 March 15 to April 3. Pakistan will play their matches in Mohali and Kolkata. Shaharyar had welcomed the ICC’s decision.