Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Shaharyar Khan has hinted that the decision to play Pakistan’s World T20 matches at Indian venues will only be taken after consulting with the central government and ESPNcricinfo understands that the PCB has written to the government in this matter.
He said that if the central government in Islamabad refuses to allow the team to travel to India for the tournament which starts on March 8, then the board will ask the ICC to shift Pakistan’s matches to a neutral venue.
“We have told the ICC the decision is with the government and it’s not just us who have to decide,” Khan told reporters at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. “We need to understand that there are specific Pakistan-oriented security threats and we are concerned, hence [we have] involved the government. These are not general threats, like Australia had in Bangladesh and they did not send their team for the Under-19 World Cup.
“We didn’t say or propose playing the World T20 matches at neutral venue but someone at the ICC meeting said that if there are concerns over any extremist activity [at Pakistan matches] then neutral venues will be looked into. Since it’s an ICC event and not a bilateral series we have to play it but if the decision [by the government] is negative then maybe the ICC could say that our matches be held in neutral venues in Sri Lanka or United Arab Emirates, and we will be ready for that.”
In October 2015, talks between the India and Pakistan boards for a proposed series in December were put on hold after protests from the Shiv Sena, a regional political party. Fifty party workers stormed the BCCI office in Mumbai, shouting anti-Pakistan slogans and demanding that the BCCI cancel the series. Following the protests, the ICC withdrew umpire Aleem Dar from the last two ODIs of the South Africa series [the fifth match was held in Mumbai] and former Pakistan cricketers Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar, who were in India on commentary duty, also returned home early.
In the World T20, none of Pakistan’s league games will be played in the state of Maharashtra. Should Pakistan qualify for the semi-final, they will play that match in New Delhi, regardless of whether they place first or second in their group; the other qualifier from their group will play the semi-final allotted to Mumbai. The semi-final venue could change if Delhi is unable to host World T20 games.
Currently, more than 400 Pakistani athletes across disciplines are in India for the South Asian Games in Guwahati, Assam. Khan, however, said, cricket could attract more threats. “There are more chances of attacks on cricketers than on swimmers and players of other games,” he said.