The Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC), Ehsan-ur-Rehman Mazari, has voiced his opinion on Pakistan’s participation in the ICC World Cup. Mazari suggests that Pakistan should follow India’s lead and demand a neutral venue for their matches in the mega event scheduled to take place in India later this year. This move comes in response to the uncertainty surrounding the national team’s participation due to security concerns.
“My personal opinion, as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) falls under my ministry, is that if India demands to play their Asia Cup games at a neutral venue, we would also demand the same for our World Cup games in India,” Mazari expressed to The Indian Express.
Last year, a controversy arose when India refused to tour Pakistan for the event, citing security concerns. After several months of deliberation, a hybrid model was agreed upon for this year’s Asia Cup. The first phase, consisting of four matches, will be held in Pakistan, while the remaining matches and the knockout stage will be hosted by Sri Lanka, totaling nine matches in the island country.
“Pakistan is the host for the Asia Cup, and it has the right to hold all the matches in Pakistan. That is what the cricket lovers want. I don’t support a hybrid model,” Mazari added.
In the midst of this situation, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has formed a high-profile committee to determine whether the Pakistani team will travel to India for the Cricket World Cup in October-November 2023. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will lead the committee.
“The committee will be chaired by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and I am one of the 11 ministers included in it. We will discuss the issue and present our recommendations to the Prime Minister, who is also the patron-in-chief of the PCB. The final decision will be made by the Prime Minister,” stated the IPC minister.
During the interview, Mazari also dismissed the notion that Pakistan is an unsafe country for playing cricket and criticized India for mixing politics with sports.
“India politicizes sports. I fail to understand why the Indian government is unwilling to send their cricket team here. Some time ago, a large baseball contingent from India was in Islamabad to play. There was also a bridge team that traveled to Pakistan, with around 60-plus people. I was the chief guest of the event. They won here and left. Pakistan’s football, hockey, and chess teams also visit India,” he pointed out.
“The security concerns were not a strong argument. The New Zealand team was here, and before that, the England cricket team visited Pakistan. They received presidential-level security. Previously, the Indian team was warmly welcomed by the fans here. Security is merely an excuse. We successfully organized the Pakistan Super League (PSL), which featured numerous foreign players,” he emphasized.
The Importance of a Neutral Venue
As tensions persist between India and Pakistan, the demand for a neutral venue for international cricket matches becomes crucial. Opting for a neutral venue ensures that the focus remains on the game rather than political conflicts. It provides a fair and secure environment for all participating teams, allowing players to showcase their skills and entertain fans from around the world.
The Asia Cup Hybrid Model
The hybrid model adopted for this year’s Asia Cup attempts to strike a balance between hosting matches in Pakistan and accommodating security concerns. By dividing the tournament between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the organizers aim to ensure the safety of players and spectators while still delivering an exciting cricketing experience. However, opinions differ on whether this model truly serves the best interests of the sport and its fans.
The Committee’s Role
The committee formed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif holds the responsibility of evaluating the risks and benefits associated with Pakistan’s participation in the upcoming Cricket World Cup. Led by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the committee comprises various ministers who will thoroughly discuss the issue and present their recommendations to the Prime Minister. The final decision rests with the Prime Minister, who will consider all aspects before making a choice that prioritizes the welfare of the Pakistani cricket team.
Addressing Security Concerns
Mazari strongly believes that security concerns should not hinder international teams from visiting Pakistan. He highlights the successful visits of the New Zealand and England cricket teams, who received top-notch security arrangements during their stay. Additionally, he reminds us of various sporting events where Pakistani teams traveled to India without encountering any issues. Mazari suggests that security is often used as an excuse, rather than a valid argument, to prevent sports events between the two nations.
The call for a neutral venue in the ICC World Cup resonates with Pakistan’s stance on fair play and equal treatment. Minister Mazari’s proposal to follow India’s lead and demand a neutral venue showcases the country’s determination to prioritize the safety and interests of its cricket team. As the high-profile committee evaluates the situation and the Prime Minister makes the final decision, the future of Pakistan’s participation in the Cricket World Cup hangs in the balance. Regardless of the outcome, it is crucial to separate politics from sports and create an environment where the game can flourish and unite cricket enthusiasts worldwide.