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Pakistan women made to feel ‘at home’ in Cuttack

- Our players are happy with the arrangements: PCB
Pakistan players after losing to Odisha XI in a practice match, in Cuttack, on Wednesday.

Calcutta: Contrary to the impression created across the border, Pakistan’s women cricketers, currently in Cuttack for the World Cup, have been provided accommodation which is “absolutely on a par” with any four-star address.

Surely, it can’t get better there.

“Nobody in the Pakistan squad has had an issue with the Club House where they’re staying... In fact, it was to be opened on April 1, which is the Utkal Divas, but we had to change our plans,” Odisha Cricket Association president Ranjib Biswal told The Telegraph.

Speaking on Wednesday evening, Biswal (a former India U-19 captain, national selector and World Cup-winning manager) added: “The Club House is the Association’s property and is within the Barabati Stadium complex... The facilities in the 17 rooms are absolutely on a par with any four-star hotel...

“There’s more than one swimming pool in the Club House and Pakistan’s women cricketers haven’t complained about anything... We’ve engaged a local caterer and food of their choice is being prepared... They’ve gone on record to say it’s like home for them. For us, that is very pleasing.”

That got confirmed when this newspaper spoke to Nadeem Sarwar, the Pakistan Cricket Board’s general manager (media), in Lahore. He said: “We have no issues at all and had been informed in advance about the accommodation. Our players are happy with the arrangements. That they don’t have to travel daily from another city is a boon.”

Apparently, a misinformed tweet by a “senior anchor” in Pakistan, on Tuesday, made the cricketing fraternity there gun for India and the International Cricket Council, which is organising the World Cup.

“There are hawks on both sides of the border, just waiting for an opportunity to go ballistic,” is how a well-placed source, based in Karachi, put it.

Biswal admitted that security was the “only” reason why Sana Mir and her teammates have been confined to the upgraded Barabati, which has been hosting ODIs for three decades.

“The drive from (capital) Bhubaneswar to Cuttack and back is over 60 kms and the security agencies had reservations after protests and threats...

“Under the circumstances, the best has been offered to the Pakistan squad...

“Much thought has gone into providing security and the agencies have left nothing to chance, with three layers of personnel on duty,” Biswal, also a former member of the Lok Sabha, pointed out.

At one stage, the Railway Stadium near the distinctly upmarket Mayfair Lagoon in Bhubaneswar was being considered as a venue for Pakistan’s matches, but it’s an “open ground” and, so, got vetoed.

The Naveen Patnaik government and Biswal have, clearly, accepted a challenge, after the Shiv Sena and some organisations espousing the same views announced that even Pakistan’s women cricketers wouldn’t be welcome.

A fallout of the beheading of an Indian soldier in the Poonch sector earlier this month.

Cuttack is a World Cup venue till February 15, when the Barabati hosts the fifth place play-off. The DRIEMS Ground there is a venue as well.