The Centre stepped in on Tuesday to convince the Himachal Pradesh government to allow the India-Pakistan World T20 match to go ahead as planned in Dharamsala on March 19.
The mouth-watering clash awaited by fans is in jeopardy after the state government expressed its inability to host it, with CM Virbhadra Singh writing to Union home minister Rajnath Singh to say people in Himachal were opposed to the match as Pakistani terrorists continued to target India.
“We will hold consultations with the Himachal government in order to convince it to go ahead with the Indo-Pak tie as scheduled. It is an international event with huge security considerations,” a government official told HT on condition of anonymity.
If the match is indeed moved out, Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla could host it. Sources in the association say Delhi has already been marked as a standby venue as the security apparatus is better equipped in the Capital. However, DDCA vice-president Chetan Chauhan said there had been no official intimation.
Singh said he did not have any problem if the match took place elsewhere in the country.
“Seeing the attitude of Pakistan towards India and the recent terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir where soldiers from Himachal have also sacrificed their lives, in such a situation, a cricket match with Pakistan should not take place, at least in Dharamshala,” Singh said on Monday.
“I think if the match takes place in Dharamsala, it would be against the will of the people of Himachal Pradesh,” the CM said.
Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Anurag Thakur, a BJP MP from the state, alleged the Himachal government was playing politics over the match.
“The venues of the World Cup matches were decided one year ago, the allotment of matches was decided six months ago. People all over have made bookings and it is not fair to give such statements at the last minute,” Thakur told reporters.
He cited the example of the South Asian Games in Congress-ruled Assam where hundreds of Pakistani athletes participated and were provided security.
“By claiming you cannot provide security, you are only giving credence to Pakistani claims that there is a security threat to their team in India. It’s about the country’s image, you cannot play politics over it,” Thakur added.
The Himachal chapter of the Indian Ex-servicemen League is opposed to the match. Virbhadra said the war veterans’ feelings should be respected.
The match seems to have divided the state BJP leadership, too. While the state unit of the party headed by Satpal Singh Satti is treading cautiously, veteran BJP leader and former CM Shanta Kumar is opposing the match vehemently. Kumar has written to the CM as well as the PM, saying the match could cause law and order problems.