New Delhi, March 9 (IANS) The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Wednesday relocated the India vs Pakistan group stage World T20 match, to be played on March 19, from Dharamsala to Kolkata citing security reasons.
ICC CEO Dave Richardson announced the decision at a press conference here. The match will be played at the historic Eden Gardens ground where the final of the tournament will also be held. Eden was supposed to host four matches prior to the announcement.
The match will go ahead as per the original starting time of 7.30 p.m. local time.
“The decision has been taken following consultation with the BCCI, the relevant state associations, the ICC and BCCI security consultant and other relevant authorities,” Richardson said.
“The decision to relocate the match has been made for security reasons. The concerns initially arose following alleged public comments recently reported by the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, warning of demonstrations and attempts to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the match.”
He said the security and safety of the cricketers are paramount, which led to the decision.
“Our concerns relate both to uncertainty as to the level of those threats as well as the level of commitment to implement any security plan developed to mitigate such threats,” the former South Africa wicket-keeper said.
“The decision was not taken lightly. The ICC and the BCCI understand the disappointment that is likely to be felt by many over the decision to move the match. But the safety and security of the event is of paramount importance to the ICC and we have taken into consideration the concerns shared with us by our security advisors as well as the Pakistan Cricket Board.”
Pakistan refused to play in Dharamsala and on Tuesday night, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) held back their team from travelling to India following security concerns over the game.
“It is not the first time venues have been changed due to security issues. The state government should’ve raised their concerns earlier,” Richardson added.
While answering a question, he said the ICC has not yet considered any penalty or punishment for the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA). He also ruled any action against the BCCI.
“Allocating important matches in Tier II cities like Dharamsala is the BCCI way of ensuring that cricket develops in that particular region. Considering the amount of effort that has gone into developing the game in that region, it will not be reasonable to penalise the HPCA,” the former South Africa star said.
“As far as those who have purchased tickets online for the match, they will be offered the choice of a full refund or the opportunity to exchange their tickets for ones for the Kolkata match,” he added.
“Finally, I would like to confirm that the ICC has been assured by all relevant state authorities that all adequate security measures are in place and will be implemented to ensure that the event is staged in a safe and secure environment for all stakeholders.”
Asserting that the ICC has done everything to ensure the security of the Pakistan team, Richardson indicated that the world cricket’s governing body may take action against the PCB if they refuse to participate in the World T20.
He also stated that if Pakistan qualifies for the World T20 semi-final to be held in Mumbai, it may be relocated to another venue since the PCB has expressed security concerns over playing in Mumbai.
Tournament director M.V. Sridhar expressed his sadness at the decision.
“It’s a clear disappointment considering the preparation that had gone into this,” he said.
“We had a meeting with the sports ministry, the home ministry and the state government on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the level of commitment over security was not satisfactory. Our decision to relocate the match was our commitment to the PCB that we recognise that concern that Dharamsala might not be a suitable location for them. We believe that we have now addressed the the PCB’s concerns,” Sridhar added.
BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur meanwhile, criticised the Himachal Pradesh government, asserting that the controversy has tarnished the image of the country.
“I think it gives a wrong impression about the country, about the state which is not in the interest of a country like India. Due to one state not delivering why should India get a bad name,” Thakur told reporters here.
“The negative atmosphere created by the state government doesn’t go well with the fans, sponsors and the country as a host. They have left no stone unturned to destroy the image of the state and the country.”