World Cup 2023: Will Pakistan travel to India? What PCB, ICC say
The much-awaited ICC World Cup 2023 schedule was recently released but the suspense over Pakistan’s participation in the quadrennial showpiece event continues.
Also read: Sri Lanka qualify for World Cup 2023
Due to political tensions, India and Pakistan have not played a bilateral cricket series since 2012 and only face each other in ICC tournaments. The last meeting between the two was in Melbourne, Australia during the T20 World Cup 2022.
This year’s Asia Cup will be played in a hybrid model after India refused to travel to Pakistan. India will now play their matches in Sri Lanka.
India’s last visit to the neighbouring country was in 2008 for Asia Cup, and Pakistan have not travelled to India since 2016 when they played the T20 World Cup.
Pakistan’s World Cup fixtures
On Tuesday (June 27), the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced the ODI World Cup 2023 fixtures in Mumbai with 10 venues in India set to host the 10-team tournament from October 5 to November 19.
As per the schedule, Pakistan are set to play their nine league games in five cities – Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata.
They will play two games each in Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata while the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad will be the scene for the blockbuster India versus Pakistan clash on October 15.
Even before the ICC finalised the World Cup fixtures, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had raised concerns over playing against certain opponents in Bengaluru and Chennai, and also about facing India in Ahmedabad, when it received the draft schedule from the ICC.
PCB did not want to play Afghanistan on a spin-friendly track in Chennai and also wanted to avoid facing Australia in Bengaluru. But the ICC and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) rejected PCB’s request and have scheduled Pakistan’s games against Australia and Afghanistan in Bengaluru (October 20) and Chennai (October 23) respectively.
According to ESPNcricinfo, in an internal note, the PCB had said, “Australia in Bengaluru and Afghanistan in Chennai are the two which we should look to get changed as much as possible. Ideally, we can switch these around. Australia in Chennai and Afghanistan in Bengaluru would make us obvious favourites in both matches.”
“India in Ahmedabad will be advantageous to them, but I doubt that’s going to change considering what that venue means for the BCCI and what this match means for the World Cup,” it added.
The ICC also made it clear that if Pakistan qualify for the World Cup 2023 semi-finals, then they will play in Kolkata and not in Mumbai.
“If Pakistan qualify for the semi-finals, they will play in Kolkata. If India qualify for the semi-finals, they will play in Mumbai unless playing against Pakistan, in which case they will play in Kolkata,” the ICC said.
The decision not to allot any World Cup game involving Pakistan in Mumbai is due to security concerns. In the past, the Shiv Sena party had not allowed the Pakistan cricket team to play any matches, and in 1991 Shiv Sena workers had dug up the Wankhede Stadium pitch before an India-Pakistan contest.
Even if Pakistan wants to request a change of venue, it can only be done for security reasons. When Pakistan were in India for the T20 World Cup in 2016, their game against the hosts was changed from Dharamsala to Kolkata due to security concerns.
Last month, the PCB chairman Najam Sethi demanded World Cup be played in a hybrid model just like the Asia Cup. He wanted Pakistan to play all their matches at a neutral venue – Bangladesh.
“If India now wants to have a neutral venue (for Asia Cup) and accepts the hybrid model, then we’ll use the same hybrid model in the World Cup,” he told Indian Express.
However, Sethi resigned last week, and elections to pick the next PCB chairman have been postponed till July 17.
Also read: World Cup 2023: Venue-wise full schedule
With the Balochistan High Court issuing a stay order against the holding of elections for the chairman’s post on Monday (June 26) on petitions filed by two former members of the PCB’s cricket management committee, confusion reigns in Pakistan cricket at the moment.
After Najam Sethi’s resignation, the Board is being run by interim chairman Ahmed Shehzad Farooq Rana.
Zaka Ashraf, nominated for the chairman’s post, must win votes of the Board of Governors to officially take charge of the key post.
Pakistan await government’s clearance
As per the PCB, it needs Pakistan government’s green signal to tour India for the World Cup 2023.
“The PCB requires the government of Pakistan’s clearance for any tour to India, including the match venues,” PCB Communications Director Sami Ul Hasan said in a statement.
“We are liaising with our government for guidance. This position is consistent to what we had told the ICC a couple of weeks ago when they shared with us the draft schedule and sought our feedback,” he added.
A PCB official said the government has not yet issued any NOC to the PCB to travel to India and since it was a sensitive issue, the Board can only move forward after getting clear directives from its government.
“Our participation in the World Cup and us playing in Ahmedabad on October 15 or in Mumbai if we qualify for semi-finals will all be dependent on government clearance,” said a PCB official.
“We have already informed the ICC that our participation in the tournament or any issues over venues is linked to firstly the PCB getting clearance from the government to travel to India,” the official added.
What is ICC saying?
According to a Pakistan foreign ministry official, the government is “evaluating all aspects” regarding team’s participation in the World Cup.
“India’s policy of not playing cricket in Pakistan is disappointing. We are observing and evaluating all aspects relating to our participation in the World Cup including the security situation for Pakistani cricketers and we will offer our views to the Pakistan Cricket Board in due course,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch was quoted as saying in Dawn newspaper on June 23.
The ICC is confident that Pakistan will travel to India for the World Cup.
Pakistan have a signed participation agreement to compete and the world governing body “100% expects them to be there and has had no indications to the contrary”.
“All members have to abide by the rules and the laws of their country and we respect that. But we’re confident Pakistan will be in India for the men’s cricket World Cup,” an ICC spokesperson told PTI.
Pakistan to send security delegation
According to a PTI report on Saturday (July 1), Pakistan is set to send a security delegation to India for inspecting the World Cup venues before giving clearance for the national team’s travel.
An official source in the Inter-Provincial Coordination (Sports) Ministry said that the government, including the foreign and interior ministry, would decide when to send the security delegation to India once the new chairman of the PCB was elected after the Eid holidays.
“The security delegation will go with representation from the PCB to inspect the venues where Pakistan will play and also the security and other arrangements made for them in the World Cup,” he said.
“Before any tour to India it is standard practice for the cricket board to seek permission from the government which normally sends a delegation to India. The delegation will interact with the officials there and discuss and inspect with them the security and other arrangements for our players, officials, fans, and media, who will go for the tournament,” he added.
Miandad advises Pakistan not to travel to India
Pakistan’s batting great Javed Miandad recently said that the team should not travel to India to play in the World Cup.
“Pakistan has been to India in 2012 and even in 2016 now it is the turn of the Indians to come here. If I had to make a decision I would never go to India to play any match, even the World Cup. We are always ready to play them (India) but they never respond in the same manner,” Miandad said.
“Pakistan cricket is bigger; we are still producing quality players. So I don’t think even if we don’t go to India it will make any difference to us. I always say one can’t choose its neighbours, so it is better to live by cooperating with each other. And I have always said cricket is a sport which brings people closer to each other and can remove misunderstandings and grievances between countries,” he added.
“It was on the cards that they would again not send their team to Pakistan for the Asia Cup so it is time we also take a strong stand now,” he said.