WITH visa issues resolved, and after slight alterations in travel plans, Pakistan’s cricket team finally touched down in India on Wednesday night ahead of the World Cup.
There were smiles and cheers as Babar Azam’s men landed in Hyderabad amid tight security as Pakistan began their first visit to India since 2016. Crowds had gathered to welcome the team, with fans chanting Babar’s name, but they were prevented by police from getting close to the players.
Security for the team will be tight throughout the seven-week World Cup, mainly due to the tense political relations between the neighbours. The team was issued visas only after the Pakistan Cricket Board complained to the International Cricket Council about an “extraordinary delay” in getting clearance from India.
The delay, it said, had disrupted the team’s preparations for the quadrennial showpiece. For security reasons, Pakistan’s first warm-up match against New Zealand, scheduled for today, will be held behind closed doors as it clashes with a Hindu festival, which will see large crowds gather in Hyderabad. Pakistan’s second warm-up is against Australia in the same city on Oct 3, before they start their campaign against the Netherlands three days later, also in Hyderabad.
A few months ago, the team’s participation at the tournament was in doubt when the PCB threatened to boycott the tournament following the Board of Cricket Control in India’s attempt to prevent Pakistan from hosting the Asia Cup.
Having already stated that the Indian team couldn’t visit Pakistan, the BCCI was reluctant to accept the hybrid model proposed by the PCB, which would see India playing its matches at neutral venues. A compromise was reached, with Pakistan hosting four out of 13 matches, and the rest being played in Sri Lanka.
PCB has fulfilled its part in sending the team to India and it is hoped that the gesture will be reciprocated in two years’ time when Pakistan hosts the Champions Trophy.
Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2023