KARACHI – Pakistan on Thursday gave permission to the country’s cricket team to play next month’s World Twenty20 in India after fears they might withdraw due to alleged security threats.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan earlier this month raised doubts over the team’s participation, saying there were specific threats from Hindu activists who forced the cancellation of a meeting between cricket officials from both countries in Mumbai last October.
Rightwing Hindu activists also forced the cancellation of Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali’s concerts in Mumbai and Pune last year and disrupted a book launch event by former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri. But the PCB announced Thursday it had received the green light after seeking extra security measures.
“I am pleased that our government has given its consent for our team to visit India,” said Khan. “As a duty of care, we have asked ICC to put in place special arrangements for the Pakistan cricket team while in India. We will also be expecting visa facilitation and other arrangements for the Pakistani fans wishing to visit India for the ICC World T20.” The sixth edition of the ICC (International Cricket Council) World Twenty20 will be held in India from March 8 to April 3. Pakistan will play its first match against a qualifier team in Kolkata on March 16, before taking on arch-rivals India in a high-profile game in Dharamsala three days later.
They also play New Zealand (March 22) and Australia (March 25) in the first round.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s cricket community has welcomed the government’s decision to allow the national team to take part in next month’s World Twenty20 in India, saying the move will help improve relations between the two countries.
“It is a positive step forward in Indo-Pak relations and our government has shown again it does not believe in mixing sports with politics,” Pakistan’s former captain Rashid Latif said.
“It was imperative for Pakistan to take part in the ICC event as we are an important part of the world cricket community,” Latif said.
“I think if Pakistan can travel to India for an ICC event than the two countries can also take part in a bilateral series in Pakistan or India. The two boards must try to have a bilateral series this year,” Former captain M Yousuf said.
There was a lot of suspense over whether the PCB would get clearance from the government to go to India owing to the volatile political ties between the two nations. Former Test opener and ex-chief coach, Mohsin Khan said he was happy to hear the news that Pakistan would got to India. “It is a good sign and it should be built upon. Cricket is necessary between both countries as it only helps the teams improve their cricket and skills,” Mohsin said.
Former Test leg-spinner Danish Kaneria said he had always enjoyed touring India. “I went to India and I can tell you they left no stone unturned to ensure we got the best security and we faced no problems at all. As far as the Indian people are concerned they have always been hospitable and they will welcome the Pakistan team,” Kaneria said. “I would love to see the day when we can have Indian players in our super league and our players going for the IPL,” he said. Pakistan’s former Test captain Ramiz Raja said he had always been a big believer in having Indo-Pak cricket relations. “I must congratulate the PCB and our government for handling this situation maturely. I think our board and government have always shown they are keen to have normal cricket relations with India,” he noted.