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CIMA Gallary

Pak team warms up for big show

Cuttack, Jan. 28: The Pakistani women’s cricket team, led by skipper Sana Mir, practised at the Barabati Stadium nets here today amidst a thick blanket of security. They will take on the Odisha team for a warm-up match at this venue on Tuesday before starting their World Cup campaign from February 1.

The players, who arrived here yesterday evening immediately after landing at Biju Patnaik Airport in Bhubaneswar, opted for a light workout with some stretching exercises and fielding drills followed by an intense net session.

These sessions and two practice games against the local cricket side are expected to give the Pakistani team, placed in Group-B, the scope to adapt to the climate here.

“The pitches are almost the same throughout the Asian subcontinent. Barabati has a spinning track, which is a good thing for us and we are looking forward to playing some good cricket. The two practice matches against Odisha will help players get acclimatised,” said Pakistan team coach Basit Ali.

The players appeared satisfied with the arrangements made for their stay at a newly built club on the Barabati premises. “We are relaxed in Odisha and there is absolutely no worry about anything, including security. The players have been provided with adequate facilities here by the Odisha Cricket Association (OCA),” said Pakistan team manager Isha Ashar.

Police today took into preventive custody at least 10 activists of Utkal Bharat who were protesting outside Barabati Stadium during the practice session.

The decision to have the Pakistani squad stay within a 100 metres of the stadium came in the wake of protests in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack by various political outfits including Bajrang Dal, which held a dawn-to-dusk bandh here on Thursday and threatened to damage pitches at match venues. The protesters have been opposing Pakistan’s participation in the tournament following the recent violence along the Line of Control.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has assured the OCA of foolproof security for the visiting teams and match venues.

All World Cup matches of Group B — comprising Pakistan, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa — will be played at Barabati Stadium and on the Driems ground, both in Cuttack.

Pakistan will be playing all its league matches at Barabati Stadium for security reasons.

Around 45 platoons of police have been deployed for the security of the four teams. “We have made adequate security arrangements for the players and are staying alert,” said DCP of Cuttack S. Praveen Kumar.

OCA officials said other teams in Group B would arrive in a couple of days before the start of the tournament. The Railway Stadium in Bhubaneswar, which was being considered as an alternative venue for Pakistan, would be used only for warm-up sessions for the visiting teams except Pakistan. The three teams will stay at hotels in Bhubaneswar.

“Our state team will play two matches against Pakistan. It is a golden opportunity for them to play against international players,” said OCA secretary Ashirbad Behera.