Pakistan may not play the upcoming ICC World T20 if its government refuses security clearance to the cricket team to travel to India as the ICC has no plans to stage matches at neutral venues.
Another team could be asked to step in for Pakistan in the month-long event that begins on March 8, an Indian cricket administrator who attended an ICC meeting in Dubai last week told HT on Tuesday.
“At the ICC board meeting, Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan did inform that his side’s participation in the event was subject to government clearance. There was no further discussion as far as I remember,” the official said.
Some media reports on Monday quoted Khan as saying a proposal was floated that Pakistan’s games be moved to a neutral venue. The Nawaz Sharif government may not allow the team to play in India as it faced security threats, Khan said at the meeting.
“It is expected that the ICC holds Pakistan matches on a neutral venue,” the PCB chief told Pakistani media, referring to threats made by the Shiv Sena.
While the ICC refused to comment, uncertainty prevailed over not just the men’s team but also the women’s, who, too, will be battling it out for the biggest prize in the shortest format of the game.
“The ICC or the organising committee has not received any written information from the PCB which says they will not participate in the WT20 in India,” an organising committee official said.
In fact, ICC allowed Pakistan two more days to name its squads after PCB sent a request on Monday, the official said. Pakistan can name its players by February 10.
The sixth edition of the World T20 will be spread over seven Indian cities but Pakistan will play league matches only in Kolkata, Dharamsala and Mohali, considered a “safe bet” for the visitors.
The semifinals are to be played in Mumbai and Delhi but if Pakistan finish among the last four, the Capital would host the game. The final will be played in Kolkata on April 3.
The Sena, which is vehemently opposed to cultural as well sporting ties with the neighbouring country and has a big presence in Mumbai, has dug up pitches, launched protests and even stormed meetings in the past.
Asked about the possibility of the Pakistan government denying permission to the team, an Indian cricket official said, “You would have noticed in the ongoing under-19 World Cup, it has gone ahead without Australia which pulled out due to security concerns. Ireland was invited to replace Australia.”
Cricketing ties -- like the political relationship -- between the two sides are strained.
A bilateral series which Pakistan was to host in late 2015 was shelved after PCB turned down India’s offer to host the matches and the Board of Control for Cricket in India refused to play at a neutral venue. Later, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to matches being played in Sri Lanka but India said no.
The series was one of the six that the two boards agreed to play between 2015 and 2023.
(With inputs from Imtiaz Ahmad in Islamabad)