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Mumbai’s loss may be Cuttack’s gain

- Decision almost taken, but ICC refuses to confirm the move

Asmavia Iqbal of Pakistan

In principle, it has been decided to shift the Group B matches of the upcoming Women’s World Cup from Mumbai to Cuttack.

All the teams in Group B — New Zealand, Pakistan, Australia and South Africa — will most probably play their matches in Cuttack and a fresh schedule will have to be worked out.

An inspection team, comprising members of the ICC and the BCCI, will visit Cuttack in a couple of days to make an assessment of the venues.

The two venues, which have been shortlisted in Cuttack, are the Barabati Stadium and DRIEMS Stadium

A confirmation, however, could not be got from Odisha Cricket Association president Ranjib Biswal. Neither did the ICC confirm the development.

When contacted by The Telegraph, Colin Gibson, ICC’s head of media and communications, said: “We are not confirming at present.”

Much will also depend on the Indian government — whether it will issue visas to Pakistan’s women cricketers.

The Board had been looking for alternative venues ever since the tension at the Indo-Pak border escalated, forcing all the nine Pakistani hockey players taking part in the Hockey India League to return home without playing a single match.

Originally, the entire tournament was scheduled to be held in Mumbai, but fears of violent protests against the Pakistan team by Shiv Sena and other organisations prompted the MCA, BCCI and the ICC to consider other options.

The eight-team Women’s World Cup will begin on January 31, with the final being on February 17. As per the original schedule, Pakistan are set to arrive in India on January 26.

However, moving the Group B matches to Cuttack will not solve the problem completely.

The knockout-stage ties are also scheduled to be held in Mumbai. So, if Pakistan manage to cross the group-league hurdle, the ICC, as well as the BCCI, will once again have to reorganise the fixture.

Pakistan’s first match is on the opening day of the tournament, on January 31, against Australia. They then play New Zealand on February 3, followed by the game against South Africa on February 5.

After the MCA said that it would like the Pakistan matches to be shifted out of Mumbai, the Board had approached the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) to host the matches in Ahmedabad.

The GCA, however, expressed its inability to host the matches, prompting BCCI to contact Odisha Cricket association, who agreed to play host.