| Pakistan women during a warm-up match at the Barabati, on Tuesday |
Calcutta/Cuttack: In what can be termed as unusual, the Pakistan women’s team, which is in India to participate in the Women’s World Cup, have been provided accommodation in the Barabati Stadium premises, in Cuttack, and not in any hotel, as is the usual practice for any International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament.
The cricketers are not complaining, but former Pakistan players have criticised the ICC and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for such an arrangement.
The ICC, on its part, has cited security issues as the rationale behind such a move.
Pakistan will play all their matches against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa at Barabati Stadium with 1500 security personnel deployed to ensure foolproof security. The Group B matches of the World Cup were shifted out of Mumbai, the original venue, after Shiv Sena had threatened to disrupt the matches.
Besides the Sangh Parivar, two local outfits in Cuttack have been protesting Pakistan’s participation in the event. They have also threatened to disrupt matches by digging up the ground.
Pakistan played a practice match against Odisha XI on Thursday, winning it by 95 runs. The match was held smoothly without any disturbance, neither near the venue nor anywhere in the city.
The players are staying at the OCA Club, within the Barabati Stadium premises.
Commenting on the issue, Pakistan women’s team captain Sana Mir said: “I think all our matches will be played at the Barabati Stadium… We are not bothered where we are staying… We are here to play cricket.”
When contacted by The Telegraph, Lucy Benjamin, the tournament media manager of the 2013 Women’s World Cup, said: “I can confirm the Pakistan team is staying at the Barabati Stadium. The ICC considered all options and the best security for the teams, and we have chosen to use the Barabati Stadium clubhouse for the Pakistan side.”
But while the Pakistan Cricket Board has remained silent on the issue, former players have lashed out at the ICC and the BCCI.
Former Test leg-spinner Abdul Qadir said that the state of affairs prevailing in the World Cup was a sad commentary on the state of relations between Pakistan and India and the role of the ICC.
“I would like to see more cricketing ties between the two countries, but for that, the Indian political parties need to keep sports away from politics. I wish our women do well in the World Cup… It would mean and say a lot about the character of Pakistan cricket,” he said.
Former captain Rashid Latif said that he was really disappointed to learn about this development. “The reason given for keeping our team at the stadium, unlike the three other teams, is security. But the point is that if the Indian Board can’t guarantee security of all the participating teams in the World Cup, why did not the ICC act and shift the event to some other country where the Pakistan team could also enjoy the event as the other teams?” Latif questioned.
“It is a shame that in a country like India, even their government and Board can’t assure safety of our players,” he added.
If one may recall, PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf had suggested to the ICC to shift the World Cup to South Africa.
Latif was of the view that under the circumstances, the Pakistan women cannot be expected to give their best in the event. “If our players do well, they would have excelled themselves, because no team should be made to suffer like this in a global ICC event,” Latif said.
Another former captain, Moin Khan, said that the treatment meted out to the Pakistan women’s team, few weeks after Pakistan men’s side had toured India without any problem, was very sad.
“It is sad that sports and politics are mixed in India. Where is the traditional hospitality the Indians are famous for? Is their government and Board so weak they can’t guarantee the security of our team if they are staying at a hotel like the other sides?” Moin asked.
Former women's team captain Urooj Mumtaz said that she could realise the pressure the players must be feeling at the moment. "I would like to know what the ICC would have done if the same situation had evolved in some other country than India. It is a joke that our team has to stay at a stadium for security reasons… Then why have the tournament in India ?" she said.
Meanwhile, players from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were scheduled to reach Cuttack on Wednesday.
Pakistan are scheduled to play another practice match against the Odisha XI on Wednesday.