“Legally and constitutionally it’s our right to participate in the tournament and nobody can remove us from it”
Ehsan Mani, the PCB chairman, has said that Pakistan will demand the T20 World Cup to be shifted out of India if Pakistan do not get written assurances from the host country on the safety and visas of every stakeholder. Mani said that the ICC in its contingency plan made UAE a back-up option, if India failed to host the tournament for any reason later this year in.
The upcoming T20 World Cup was originally scheduled to be held in Australia but due to the pandemic, the cycle had been revised giving India rights to host the 2021 event while Australia have been asked to host the 2022 edition. Given the strained relationship between India and Pakistan, the ICC has been working together with the boards to obtain assurances for Pakistan’s participation.
“Our government has never told us that we can’t play (in India),” Mani told reporters in Lahore. “We have agreed with the ICC that we are going to participate and we can’t contravene that. At the ICC level, I have clearly said we need a written assurance from the India government that not only our team and squad’s visas, we also need visas for fans, journalists and the board officials, but that’s also all written in the ICC host agreement and according to that we have put our demand.
“ICC has also been a bit loose on it as they told us that it will be done by Dec 31, 2020, but it didn’t happen. I again raised it in January and in February directly with the ICC chairman, then I talked to ICC management and I told them that I need a clear decision by March. They are saying that by end of March. If it doesn’t come, I will demand the shifting of the event from India to UAE.”
Cricketing ties between India and Pakistan have had their ups and downs since the two countries first met in the Delhi Test of 1952. The relationship over the last seven decades has been impaired with neither side touring the other country for a full series since 2007 when Pakistan last visited India. Bilateral ties between the two countries were snapped after the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 until a limited-overs series was played in 2012-13, though India and Pakistan have faced each other in international tournaments. The sides last met at the 2019 World Cup in England.
Mani also brought up how the International Olympic Committee had suspended India in 2019 after Pakistani shooters were not issued visas for the World Cup held in New Delhi in February 2019. That sanction, however, was lifted after the union government promised that all participating athletes would be given a visa, and that it wouldn’t be judged politically. Mani called for this issue to be sorted too, and for cricket to stay out of politics.
On a separate outstanding issue, the ICC has told the BCCI that it reserves the right to take away the 2021 men’s T20 World Cup from India after the board failed to secure a tax exemption for the tournament from the government.
“It’s already been decided that if India can’t hold the event it will be shifted to UAE,” Mani said. “Legally and constitutionally it’s our right to participate in the tournament and nobody can remove us from the tournament and the ICC chairman does realise this.
“Unfortunately, it’s unhealthy that especially cricket in India is being linked with politics. On a personal level, I have no problems with Sourav Ganguly and he is quite open about it, he wants to organise the tournament in India and I have no problems with it too if he can convince every stakeholder. But ICC has backup plans and if they (India) can’t do it, it will be held at an alternative venue.”
The 2020 edition of the Asia Cup, which was postponed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, is also slotted for June this year. The tournament was originally meant to be played in Pakistan but PCB swapped the hosting rights with Sri Lanka’s 2022 edition as the PCB cannot feasibly host a tournament involving India around the growing tension between two countries. It was to feature the four subcontinent sides along with Afghanistan and an Asian qualifier. “The fate of the tournament hinges upon the qualification of India in the ICC Test championship. If they do (qualify) then its impossible this year and then we have to take it to 2023.”