Security issues hit Pakistan’s ICC Cricket World Cup warm-up match in India

Indian board says Pakistan’s match to be played behind closed doors in Hyderabad due to persisting security concerns.

Pakistan cricket fans
Fans will not be allowed to attend Pakistan's warm-up match in the lead-up to the ICC Cricket World Cup in India [Pankaj Nangia/AP]

Pakistan’s warm-up match against New Zealand ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 will be played behind closed doors, the Indian cricket board, hosts of the mega event, says as security concerns and restrictions continue to mar Pakistan’s participation in the tournament nine days before its launch.

Pakistan and New Zealand are scheduled to play their first pre-tournament match on Friday at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad, capital of the southern Indian state of Telangana.

However, in a statement on Monday, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said that “the match will [now] take place behind closed doors as per the advice of the local security agencies”.

It added that the match coincides with “festivals on the day and large gatherings are expected around the city”.

Tickets for the match, along with nine other warm-up fixtures, went on sale last month, and fans have now been told they will receive a full refund for this match.

Pakistan decries ‘unequitable treatment’

The BCCI’s announcement came hours after the Pakistan contingent for the World Cup were finally issued visas less than two days before their departure for India.

The delay in receiving visas for the players and coaching staff put the team’s plans in disarray with decades-old thorny ties between the two countries coming to the fore once again.

On Monday, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had written to the International Cricket Council (ICC), the sport’s world governing body, to raise concerns over the “unequitable treatment towards Pakistan”, a PCB spokesperson told Al Jazeera.

“It’s a matter of disappointment that Pakistan team has to face uncertainty ahead of the tournament,” the spokesperson said.

Last month, the tournament’s marquee group stage match between India and Pakistan in Ahmedabad was rescheduled to a day earlier, on October 14, after local police said they would not be able to provide adequate security.

The original date for the match clashed with the first day of the Hindu festival of Navaratri, local police said after the tournament’s schedule was announced.

Cricket fans in Pakistan have said they are facing long delays in acquiring visas for India and have been slammed with restrictions on their movement should they travel across the border to watch the matches.

“Our travel agent has told us we will not be allowed to go anywhere except the stadium and our hotel once we reach Ahmedabad,” Khursheed Ali, a Pakistan supporter, told Al Jazeera.

“Who would want to travel under such restrictions? We want to go and explore our neighbouring country but simply can’t.”

Pakistan and India have been bitter rivals since their independence from British rule in 1947. They have fought three wars since and have stern restrictions on cross-border movements of their citizens.

Direct flights between India and Pakistan have been suspended for more than four years after a souring of ties over New Delhi’s move to revoke the semiautonomous status of Indian-administered Kashmir.

Source: Al Jazeera