We in Pakistan are lucky to even play the World T20 in India

Is pulling out of an ICC event an option for a country that doesn't play at home?

 |  3-minute read |   11-03-2016
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Interesting how we never heard about the "security" or "clearance" of Pakistan's 456-strong contingent that took part in the 12th South Asian Games last month in the Indian cities of Guwahati and Shillong. These 456 athletes didn't become a security assurance debate as opposed to the 15 cricketers set to take part in the World T20 held in India.

It is not the first time that the Pakistan cricket team has been threatened with protests and pitch-vandalising by extremist groups in India.

Historically, whenever the Pakistan cricket team has toured India, there have been political controversies: In 1991, when Pakistan cricket team was on tour, Shiv Sena's men under Bal Thackeray vandalised the pitch at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai; subsequently, the tour was cancelled.

Citing security concerns, Pakistan cancelled full tours in 1993 and 1994. Then in 1999 ahead of Pakistan's cricket tour, Shiv Sena protestors dug up another pitch - this time at Feroz Shah Kotla cricket stadium in Delhi.

In 2012 too radical groups demanded the cancellation of the Pakistan cricket tour to India and threatened to hold protests against the side. The World Hindu Council said "India should refuse to host the tour until Pakistan brought to justice the masterminds behind the Mumbai attacks."

Last October, in a bid to revive the cricketing ties, the meeting scheduled between Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Pakistan Cricket Board in Mumbai was cancelled when Shiva Sena's members stormed the BCCI headquarters to protest the resumption of bilateral cricket.

And now ahead of the World T20, the teams are the same, but this is a complete role reversal: Congress is the new Shiv Sena of India-Pakistan cricket. Chief minister Himachal Pradesh, Virbhadra Singh refused to provide security for the Dharamsala match. He reiterated that the match should be moved to another venue out of respect for the martyrs of Pathankot and Kargil.

However, 81-year-old Singh seems to have forgotten how he disrespected the "martyrs" of Kargil in 2005 as a chief guest for a tour match of Pakistan vs Board President's XI in Dharamsala.After the International Cricket Council (ICC) moved the match from Dharamsala to Kolkata, one assumed that the controversies surrounding Pakistan's participation in World T20 would end. But Pakistan interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the government was not in a position to give clearance: "Unless we get written assurance from the Indian government, we will not allow our team to travel to India," he said.

Due to the lack of commitment on bilateral ties earlier and now this episode the mistrust between PCB and BCCI has aggravated manifold. The PCB is still playing hardball with the security demands, but how tough can the board act - especially when Pakistan finds itself in a challenging situation?

As international cricket dried up from home grounds after the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009, Pakistan was forced to use UAE for its "home series". After a gap of five years, Zimbabwe's tour to Pakistan in May last year still couldn't sway international teams to play in Pakistan.

Unable to even host the first edition of its star-studded league, the Pakistan Super League was played in Dubai and Sharjah last month.

Pakistan fears its cricket will disappear into oblivion. Is pulling out of an ICC event even an option for a country that doesn't play at home? And playing in India is the closest they can get to playing at home.

If stats mean anything for the biggest game of World T20, Pakistan has a good track record against India at Eden Gardens: Out of 11 matches, they have won five, while five others were drawn and India won one. The last time Pakistan played here it won against India by 85 runs, becoming the first team (then) to beat India in three years at a bilateral ODI series at home. Yes, if stats mean anything, then at ICC World Cup, Pakistan has never won a match against India. And looking at the current shape of the Pakistani team, the statistic is there to stay and hence

Pakistan team will be "safe" in India rather than Pakistan.

Writer

Naila Inayat Naila Inayat @nailainayat

Journalist. I've always been better than I have allowed myself to be...

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