No decision yet on Pakistan's base
The final decision over the whether to move the Pakistan women's team base for the forthcoming Women's World Cup out of Mumbai, fearing protests by political outfits, hangs in the balance. At the end of the BCCI Working Committee meeting in Mumbai on Tuesday, BCCI president N Srinivasan did not reveal anything concrete except saying that the board had passed the relevant information to the ICC. "We have informed the ICC about it. They will have to examine it and take a view," he said.
The PCB has written to the ICC, asking it to take responsibility of the security of the Pakistan squad. "We have written to the ICC asking it to ensure the Pakistan team get a foolproof security after the hockey incidents," PCB spokesperson Nadeem Sarwar told ESPNcricinfo. The PCB has also requested if the organsiers could shift the venue for the Pakistan matches."
The World Cup will be played at four venues across Mumbai, from January 31 to February 17. Wankhede Stadium, Brabourne Stadium, MIG Ground and the Bandra-Kurla Complex ground are the four venues. Pakistan, who are in Group B, are scheduled to play their league matches against Australia (January 31), New Zealand (February 3) and South Africa (February 5).
However, it is understood that the tournament organisers have been thinking of an alternate venue as a safeguard, though no final venue has been decided. "We have not written anything to the ICC asking or informing them about any change of venue. We have just made them aware of what the ground situation is here in Mumbai in a few e-mail exchanges," a board official told ESPNcricinfo. According to him, a final word on the change of venue should be decided in the next two days.
On Sunday, the Shiv Sena activists held protests outside the Bombay Hockey Association Stadium, (which incidentally is adjacent to the Wankhede Stadium) opposing the presence of four Pakistan hockey players in the Mumbai Magicians' squad in the recently launched Hockey India League. Though the team moved immediately to New Delhi, some Sena activists reached the practice venue in the Indian capital to cause further disruptions.
The Sena went public about its intentions, saying it would not allow any Pakistan artistes to perform in Mumbai. "I don't want to reveal our plans, but you already know of our policy. The Sena will not allow any artiste or sportsperson from Pakistan to perform or play in the city. That country is waging a proxy war against us. There's no way we will allow them in Mumbai," senior party leader Subhash Desai told DNA on Monday.
The BCCI, understandably, feels the protests could escalate to a higher level considering it is hosting a world event. "This being a World Cup, it will attract a little more attention from political outfits like Shiv Sena. With regards the hockey issue only few hockey players were involved but we are talking now about an entire Pakistan women's squad," the official said.
Asked if the ICC had raised any concerns, the official said the final decision would have to be taken by India, the host country. "Any decision will be taken here rather than the ICC. It will be a BCCI decision if there is a shift of venue. The only decision when the ICC will get involved in would be in the extreme scenario of Pakistan pulling out of the tournament. But that happening is quite remote," the official said.
The ICC has been monitoring the situation but is happy to wait for the BCCI to deliver the final decision. "Safety and security of the players and ICC officials is always our priority and we constantly monitor and review every situation," an ICC spokesperson said.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo