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Dharamsala's loss may be Delhi's gain; India-Pak World T20 game set to move

Qaiser Mohammad Ali | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:50 IST
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The issue

  • Dharamsala was to host the India-Pakistan World Twenty20 match on 19 March
  • But Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh wrote to the Home Ministry saying his govt can\'t guarantee security

The alternative

  • BCCI officials have contacted the Central government to decide on an alternate venue quickly
  • Delhi has been sounded out as the alternate host, DDCA officials say there\'s a 90% chance of the match moving

More in the story

  • The reason cited by the Himachal govt for being unable to guarantee security
  • BCCI secy and BJP MP Anurag Thakur\'s allegation against the Congress govt in the state
  • The unique challenges the ICC and BCCI will face in relocating the game

A cloud of doubt hangs over the much-awaited India-Pakistan World Twenty20 match, scheduled to be held in Dharamsala on 19 March.

The Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government in Himachal Pradesh has said it is in no position to provide security, considering the sentiments of the families of soldiers who have fought wars with Pakistan and live in the area.

As soon as this information emerged, the Board of Control for Cricket in India got in touch with the Central government. And now, Delhi has emerged as the BCCI and the International Cricket Council's top choice to be the replacement venue for the marquee clash.

State govt says it can't provide security, considering the sentiments of soldiers living in the area

Delhi is being considered as the "safest venue" for the India-Pakistan match.

DDCA on standby

Himachal Chief Minister Singh wrote to the Home Ministry, expressing his inability to provide security for the match.

Also read: World T20: BJP, Congress exchange blows over Indo-Pak tie in Dharamsala

Soon, a top BCCI official got in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs on Monday, reportedly discussing Delhi as the alternate venue for the match, sources told Catch.
Almost the same time, top officials of the Delhi and District Association (DDCA) received a call from another high-ranking BCCI official, who told them to prepare for an "emergency".

BCCI officials have got in touch with the Central govt, and have sounded out DDCA to be on standby

Two top DDCA officials separately confirmed to Catch that association office-bearers had received messages from the BCCI that Delhi had been picked as a standby venue, should the match be eventually relocated from Dharamsala.

A DDCA official said: "He [DDCA office-bearer] just told us that the India-Pakistan match is almost 90% sure to be relocated to Delhi. Let us see what happens."

When asked why Delhi was being considered as an alternate venue, and why not Mohali, which is closer to Dharamsala, the official said: "Delhi is the safest place for an India-Pakistan men's cricket match. In Delhi, the government can provide the best of security to the Indian and Pakistani teams. That is why if the match is shifted from Dharamsala, Delhi has the best chance as an alternate venue."

When contacted on Tuesday and asked about the Board functionary's meeting with MEA officials, another Board official did not deny the meeting. "But what has changed since Monday evening? The match venue has still not been changed. Right now, we can't say anything about the match venue," the BCCI official said.

Also read: ICC World T20: India and Pakistan to face off in Dharamsala

Interestingly, Delhi is to host an India-Pakistan Women's World Twenty20 match on the same afternoon, 19 March, when the men's teams are scheduled to play an evening match in Dharamsala. If the men's match is shifted to Delhi, the Ferozeshah Kotla would end up staging two India-Pakistan matches on the same day - a unique scenario, and a perfect icing on the cake for spectators.

The women's Ind-Pak game is to be played in Delhi on the same afternoon as the men's game - 19 March

Nothing but politics

While writing to the Home Ministry about its inability to provide security, Chief Minister Singh said that a large number of soldiers lived in nearby Kangra. He argued that if the match was played in Dharamsala, it would hurt sentiments of the families of martyrs of the Kargil War. He also did not rule out protests at the match venue.

The CBI is investigating the disproportionate assets case against Singh. Singh, who could be feeling victimised, has got an opportunity to embarrass both the Dhumal family and the Central government via the politics of cricket.

Also, since the stadium is located in the hills, players could be stuck in an emergency situation as the venue has limited access by road to the mainland.

It can be argued that if the Himachal Pradesh government felt the match would hurt the sentiments of soldiers' families, it could have told the BCCI or the Central government about this soon after the ICC announced the schedule on 11 December.

Essentially, it is clear that it is all politics. Himachal Pradesh is the home state of BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur, a BJP MP. However, his party lost the last state Assembly elections to the rival Congress, which thinks it is in a perfect position to take "revenge".

Thakur, whose father PK Dhumal was the Himachal Chief Minister in the previous BJP government, on Tuesday alleged that the Congress was playing politics by refusing to provide assistance like police security and other official apparatus for staging the match.

"Those politicizing this cricket issue hv shown thr own shortcomings & incapability, are working to tarnish image of HP & the country," Thakur tweeted on Tuesday.

Also read: ICC World T20: Indo-Pak clash, BCCI's politics and all you need to know

Thakur also claimed that the schedule and venues were planned one year ago. But that is not correct as the ICC officially announced the scheduled only on 11 December.

Unique situation

The BCCI and the ICC are taking no chances, especially as the match is just 17 days away and a whole lot of changes have to be made if the match is eventually shifted from Dharamsala.

  • The ICC/BCCI will have to take into consideration many people, including foreign and Indian spectators, who might have finalised their travel and accommodation plans.
  • Another unique aspect is that tickets for this men's India-Pakistan match are being sold through a draw of lots by a website assigned the task. Fans are supposed to register on the website, and would later be informed through SMS and email about their tickets. On Tuesday, the website was still registering newcomers.
  • If the men's match is finally relocated to Delhi, it would pose a unique challenge to the ICC/BCCI vis-a-vis tickets. Several questions were being asked on Tuesday. Since spectators will buy the tickets for the women's match in Delhi on 19 March, will they get to watch the men's game for free? Or will they be asked to leave the Kotla and those who would have bought the tickets for the men's match be ushered in?

Since little time is left, the BCCI/ICC will, in consultation with the Central government, have to quickly take a decision on the venue, as the logistics have to be altered in a big way.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

Also read: ICC World T20: All you need to know about the eight venues in India

First published: 1 March 2016, 6:08 IST
 
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