The Pakistan women’s cricket team’s visit to India for the World Cup has turned into a security and logistical nightmare. First, the team could not go to Mumbai, where its matches were originally scheduled, after the Shiv Sena started issuing its usual threats against visiting Pakistani teams. Now, hotels at the alternative venue of Cuttack and neighbouring city Bhubaneshwar have refused lodging to our players out of fear. Our cricketers now have to play this all-important tournament under virtual house arrest, with their accommodation being provided at the clubhouse of the stadium in which all their matches will be played. Every other team will be staying in five-star hotels. This discrimination is undoubtedly unfair and puts our team at a significant disadvantage. The team has been conciliatory about its treatment but the International Cricket Council (ICC) should take note of this.
International teams have refused to visit Pakistan over justified security fears. It seems, however, that if we simply put international teams at clubhouses in stadiums and refuse to let them go anywhere else, the security problem would apparently be solved. No country, of course, would accept such conditions to play cricket in Pakistan. Yet, our women cricketers are expected to put up with this in India. Additionally, the final of the tournament is supposed to be held in Mumbai. India needs to explain how our cricketers will be able to stay in Mumbai in the current climate if we reach the final.
The ICC also needs to consider if India should be allowed to hold multi-nation tournaments at a time when it can’t guarantee safety of all players. It is now too late to reschedule the World Cup and our pulling out of the tournament in protest will only heighten tensions. We should make clear that we are only playing under duress and that such conditions are unacceptable if any of our sportspersons tour India again. Instead of appeasing the anti-Pakistan extremists, the Indian government must ensure the safety and comfort of our players.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2013.