KARACHI: The much-discussed issue of Pakistan playing their high-voltage World T20 encounter against arch-rivals and hosts India in Dharamsala is all set to take another twist as there are strong indications from the security delegation that it will not be safe to play there due to the strong anti-Pakistan sentiments present in the city.
A three-member security delegation, led by FIA DG Usman Anwar, was in India to oversee the security arrangements for the big clash. However, The Express Tribune has learnt that political tensions in Dharamsala mean that Pakistan requesting an alternate venue is very much on the cards.
The locals of Dharamsala staged a protest against hosting the Pakistan team on Tuesday and that has not gone unnoticed, while Himachal Pardesh Chief Minister had clearly stated before that all teams other than Pakistan are welcome to play in the state but the Men in Green would not be provided any security.
The Pakistan-India match is the biggest of the lot, with as much as half of the revenue of the entire tournament expected to come from this fixture alone. The clash is expected to fetch over $20 million if sponsors and broadcasting rights are taken into consideration.
“While security arrangements in Dharamsala are fine, the political tension in the region is a serious concern for the Pakistan team,” a senior PCB official told The Express Tribune. “Obviously, we can’t take any risk with the players, and the board has already requested the International Cricket Council to look for an alternate option. Pakistan and India can play in Kolkata, Bangalore or Mohali; so there are a couple of options available.”
Currently, both the men’s and women’s teams are on hold until the security report is sent by the delegation, which may end up deciding whether the team is sent to Dharamsala or not.
However, the likelihood is that the teams would fly on Wednesday once the report is submitted, as the PCB does not want to quit the entire World T20 on security grounds.
“The PCB has particular concerns and the practical approach would be taken,” added the official. “We’ll wait for the government’s signal once the security report is submitted. We’re certain that the green signal would be given to us and we’ll participate in the World T20.”
The official added that the team will not be met with such hostility in other parts of India.
“The only concern is to avoid places where there is a strong anti-Pakistan sentiment,” he said. “There are places where Pakistanis are loved and welcomed, and the ICC should opt for those venues. We hope sanity prevails and the ICC looks for alternatives, otherwise we’ll have to rethink about playing our match against India in Dharamsala. There are different options available to us and we’re mulling over them.”
Meanwhile, tournament Director MV Sridhar was on Tuesday quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying that the match will be played as per schedule.
“The match is on. The state and central governments are on-board and all security arrangements have been made,” said Sridhar after a meeting with Special Secretary (Internal Security) in the Home Ministry M K Singla.