March 9: Dharamsala has lost the high-profile India versus Pakistan T20 World Cup match to Kolkata. The International Cricket Council finally accepted a request from Pakistan Cricket Board and moved the March 19 match to a safer venue. Kolkata’s Eden Gardens became an automatic choice due to logistical reasons.
ICC CEO Dave Richardson told reporters in Delhi on Wednesday: “We have taken the decision after consulting with our security officers. We are responsible for the security of teams. Their safety is of prime concern.”
“This was the first time in the history of the T20 World Cup that a venue had to be changed due to security reasons. Fans can either get a full refund or transfer their ticket for the Kolkata match,” said Richardson.
“It is unfortunate that the local government raised concerns late,” said Richardson, adding that “ICC has not thought of any punishment (for BCCI).”
As per the ICC itinerary, Pakistani are slated to camp in Kolkata where they will play two warm-up games (against Bengal, March 12 and Sri Lanka, March 14).
Pakistan open their T20 World Cup campaign on March 14 against a qualifier in Kolkata. Their next match against India was scheduled in Dharamsala five days later. They then face New Zealand on March 22 and Australia on March 25, with both of those matches in Mohali.
Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistan delayed their departure to India while they awaited a go-ahead from the government, which had concerns about the team’s security.
The Pakistan Cricket Board sent a delegation of officials to check security at the venues in India earlier this week, with the Dharamsala venue of particular concern.
The delegation felt that security in Dharamsala was “unsatisfactory”.
In Himachal Pradesh, former servicemen have been protesting against the India versus Pakistan T20 World Cup match, alleging that it hurts the sentiments of the families of soldiers of the state killed in battle against Pakistan or in operations against terrorists from Pakistan-based terror groups.
The state’s chief minister Virbhadra Singh of the Congress said he could not ensure adequate security for the match. The ICC and BCCI failed to find a solution forcing the PCB to abandon Dharamsala as a venue.
BCCI blamed the Himachal Pradesh state government for the change in venue.
“We left no stone unturned but the Himachal Pradesh state government response was negative,” said said BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur, who is also a BJP MP.