The ICC has shifted the India-Pakistan match to Kolkata because of security concerns in Dharamsala, but the PCB has reasons for not yet clearing the departure of its teams
Ugra: Indian politics to blame for game moving
The PCB’s decision to defer the departure of its men’s and women’s teams to the World T20 in India pending, “an assurance against specific threats to the Pakistan team from various political parties and groups during the tour,” is the end result of months of dissatisfaction with the handling of India-Pakistan cricket ties in India.
The PCB’s announcement came shortly after the ICC had conveyed its decision to shift the March 19 World T20 fixture between India and Pakistan from Dharamsala to Kolkata. The change of venue was expected to bring the controversy surrounding the match to an end; the PCB, however, said its teams would not travel unless given a high-level assurance from India, following an adverse report by its security team which visited Dharamsala and New Delhi over the weekend. The three-man committee sent to assess the security situation in Dharamsala had already declared it: ‘unsatisfactory.’
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.
The PCB lost confidence and public support for contests against India when workers from the Shiv Sena, a regional political party, stormed the BCCI office in Mumbai, shouting anti-Pakistan slogans. It led to an embarrassing and unfruitful departure for the Pakistani delegation led by Shahryar, and the incident made headlines in Pakistan, with the PCB roundly criticised by political and cricketing quarters. The Pakistan government took notice of the fiasco, asking the PCB to adopt caution in travelling to India, doing so only after a favourable prior advisory from the centre.
In the case of the World T20, neither India’s central government in New Delhi nor the Himachal state government were able to give clear assurances around the security that would be put into place for the Pakistan teams.
In case of Dharamsala, the state government of Himachal Pradesh categorically refused to assure full fledged security to the Pakistan team, citing protests by ex-servicemen’s families due to incidents along the border. PCB’s major concern was the lack of clear security plans around their teams’ travel following the security delegation’s visit to India.
The Pakistan security delegation’s visit was not taken seriously by the Indian government either. While the ICC had indirectly assured the PCB of full security, it was not accepted because the direct word from any government in India had come from the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, about being unable to protect the team. No security plan was presented to the delegation, which had to insist on a meeting with the deputy police commissioner of the region, who did not have any special instructions from the home minister about security for the Pakistan team.
In Delhi, no attempts had been made to arrange meetings with senior authorities at the central level. The Pakistan delegation spent two days in the Indian capital but were unsuccessful in attempting to establish contact with the Indian Home Minister.
These incidents further soured relations between the two countries. The BCCI’s lack of clarity over playing a bilateral series against Pakistan, and later abandoning the idea of the series without responding to communiqués from the PCB, has also added to the mistrust. India’s silent ditching of the bilaterial series, the PCB said, had cost them US$40m.
The list of Pakistan’s disenchantment over relations with India stretches back more than 18 months. The Shiv Sena’s protest in the BCCI office was preceded by the cancellation of concerts in India by two Pakistani singers, Atif Aslam and Ghulam Ali, in April and October 2015. A launch of a book written by former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri was disrupted by right-wing activists attacking one of the organisers with black ink. After those Shiv Sena protests, which occurred during South Africa’s tour of India, Pakistani umpire Aleem Dar and commentators Shoaib Akhtar and Wasim Akram did not travel to Mumbai for an ODI and left the country instead.
All of these events led the PCB to be more stringent about its security demands on the BCCI and the ICC about the World T20. In such a scenario, if these demands were not met, there is every possibility the PCB may consider pulling both squads out of the tournament.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @kalson
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo