Pakistan teams given clearance to travel to India

The Pakistan players were apprised of the security situation in India by PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan on Thursday © PCB

The Pakistan government has received two letters, from the West Bengal state government and Kolkata’s police commissioner Rajeev Kumar, assuring special security measures for Pakistan’s men’s team while in Kolkata. These letters are likely to be evaluated by Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Khan, who will take the call on whether the men’s and women’s teams will travel to India for the tournament.

CAB president Sourav Ganguly submitted the letters from Kumar and West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee to the ICC on Thursday afternoon. According to two senior CAB officials, the content in both letters, which were addressed to CAB, was brief: both Banerjee and Kumar stated they will take responsibility for the Pakistan team’s security for the duration of their stay in Kolkata for the match against India on March 19.

While the Indian federal government has not given any specific assurances, the home minister, Rajnath Singh, said on Thursday: “Anyone coming to India will be provided security, there is no doubt about it.” Kuldip Singh Dhatwalia, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Home Affairs, reiterated the home minister’s statement. “Home Minister has already said it on record that Government of India will provide all the due and proper security. It is not only for the Pakistani team, but for any other team also, the Government of India is committed to provide the security,” Dhatwala told ESPNcricinfo.

Dhatwala said he was not aware of whether the ICC had been in touch with the ministry, and also made it clear that the neither the MHA nor the Indian government had written or contacted their counterparts in Pakistan on the matter. “The minister has made the government’s stand clear in the media. It is up to the BCCI and the organisers [ICC] to take care of the [rest of the] formalities,” Dhatwala.

The match was shifted to Kolkata from Dharamsala due to concerns over security of the Pakistan team. It is understood that the ICC had specifically asked the Cricket Association of Bengal, the host association for the match, to obtain the assurances.

Both teams were scheduled to depart for India earlier this week, but the departure was put on hold due to the controversy over security assurances. The Pakistan men’s team is currently in Lahore, while the women’s team is in Karachi. The players were briefed by PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan on Thursday about the security situation in India. Shaharyar was optimistic that a security assurance would be given and information on the arrangements would be furnished to the Interior Ministry for their directions.

As the departure of the teams has not yet been cleared, the CAB has already given up on Saturday’s warm-up match scheduled at 3pm between Pakistanis and the Bengal team. The BCCI, meanwhile, has decided to stay quiet for the moment. According to one of the senior-most and influential BCCI officials, the Indian board cannot do anything regarding the Pakistan government’s request for an assurance from the federal government in India.

The BCCI official said the Indian board is an organiser of the World T20, which is an ICC tournament. The BCCI, he said, is making all arrangements to facilitate Pakistan’s participation in the event. Asked whether the BCCI was trying to get in touch with the Indian government, the official said there was no need as CAB had submitted the letters to the ICC. He also said the India’s Ministry of Home Affairs had stated the Pakistan team would be provided with additional security during the World T20.

The BCCI official also stated that the Indian board had not been in direct touch with the PCB as there was no need for the same. “Shaharyar Khan wrote an e-mail requesting the match be shifted either to Kolkata or Mohali based on the statements made by Himachal Pradesh chief minister on the security. As per his request we moved the match to Kolkata. Our job ends there. Now it is for Pakistan to decide whether they want to participate or not,” the official said.

The ICC moved the match from Dharamsala to Kolkata, after Pakistan asked for a change in venue. The request was based on the report of a three-member delegation from Pakistan that visited India to assess security arrangements in Dharamsala, and stated that ‘security is not assured’ at the venue.

The Pakistan government had initially cleared the team to play in India, but the board decided to put the visit on hold until they were guaranteed foolproof security. The PCB’s move was prompted after the Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh had expressed concerns over providing security for the match in Dharamsala.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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