Bhubaneswar, Jan. 21: The state government has assured the Odisha Cricket Association that foolproof security will be provided for hosting Group B matches of the upcoming ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in Cuttack.
The assurance comes in the wake of strong opposition by BJD MP from Cuttack Bhartruhari Mahtab and some others to the participation of the Pakistan women’s team in the tournament. The BJD leadership is also divided over the issue.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) shifted all the games of Group B teams (Pakistan, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa) to Cuttack as Pakistan faced a threat perception in Mumbai — the original venue for the tournament.
However, after the news became public, several organisations in Odisha started opposing that team’s participation here with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad threatening to damage the pitches at the two venues — Barabati Stadium and the Driems ground. Apprehending trouble, OCA members, including its president Ranjib Biswal, secretary Ashirbad Behera and BJD’s Barabati-Sadar MLA Debasis Samantaray today met chief minister Naveen Patnaik at the state secretariat today and sought his help.
Director-general of police (DGP) Prakash Mishra and minister of sports and youth services Ramesh Majhi were also present at the meeting.
Emerging from the hour-long meeting, Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) president Biswal said: “The chief minister has promised that the state will provide all sorts of security. The World Cup matches will be held in a smooth way and there is nothing to worry about.”
DGP Mishra said: “A section of people have opposed the match. We respect their sentiments. However, it is not about India and Pakistan. The ICC has decided upon this match. We will provide all kinds of security.”
A BCCI team is expected to reach Cuttack on Tuesday to inspect the security aspect of the stadia. The Pakistani team will arrive here on January 26 and have two practice matches with the local team before beginning the tournament on January 31. The New Zealand, South Africa and Australia teams will arrive five days later.
Yesterday, Mahtab said the Pakistan players should not be allowed to play in Cuttack, stating that the Pakistan Army had killed two Indian jawans, one of whom has been beheaded.
“It is my personal opinion,” he told The Telegraph.
Cuttack-Barabati MLA Debasis Samantray said: “I cannot comment on Mahtab’s opinion against allowing the Pakistani team here. However, whatever is going on at Indo-Pak border should not be dragged to the cricket match.”
Cuttack Congress senior leader Suresh Routray said: “The ruling BJD has internal differences over the issue. However, we will not oppose the match. Politics should not enter cricket.”
Appealing to the people to allow the players to enjoy cricket at Barabati, OCA secretary Ashirbad Behera said: “Politics should not be mixed with cricket. We have all sympathy for the jawans who lost their lives but the game should not be threatened by this.”
Expelled BJD leader and Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra also said the Pakistan team’s participation should not be opposed.