World Cup 2023: Minister says Pakistan should not play in India

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Pakistani and Indian players shake hands after the ICC mens Twenty20 World Cup 2022 cricket match at Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne on October 23, 2022. — AFP
Pakistani and Indian players shake hands after the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup 2022 cricket match at Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne on October 23, 2022. — AFP

Casting doubt over Pakistan touring India for this year’s ICC World Cup, Minister of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Ehsan-ur-Rehman Mazari has said that the country should follow India’s lead in demanding that their matches in the mega event be played at a neutral venue. 

Talking to the Indian publication The Indian Express, Mazari said: “My personal opinion, since the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) comes 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.” 

A controversy spanning several months kicked off last year after India refused to tour Pakistan for the event due to security concerns.

A hybrid model was finally settled upon for the Asia Cup this year.

The Asia Cup’s first phase, containing four matches, will be played in Pakistan. 

Then, the event will move to Sri Lanka for the remaining matches, including the knockout stage. 

The Island country will host nine matches.

“Pakistan is the host [for the Asia Cup], it has the right to hold all the matches in Pakistan. That is what the cricket lovers want, I don’t want a hybrid model,” Mazari added.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has set up a high-profile committee to decide whether the Men in Green 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 headed by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and I am among the 11 ministers who are part of it. 

“We will discuss the issue and give our recommendations to the PM, who is also the patron-in-chief of PCB. The PM will take the final decision,” the IPC minister said.

During the interview, Mazari also brushed aside the notion that Pakistan wasn’t a safe country to play cricket and criticised India for mixing politics with sports.

“India brings sports into politics. I don’t understand why the Indian government doesn’t want to send their cricket team here. Some time back a huge baseball contingent from India was in Islamabad to play.

“There was also the bridge team that had travelled to Pakistan. There were 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 travel to India,” he said.

“It [security concerns] wasn’t a solid argument. The New Zealand team was here, before that the England cricket team was in Pakistan. They got presidential security. 

“Earlier, the Indian team was given a hearty welcome by the fans here. Security is an excuse. We also held the Pakistan Super League (PSL) that had so many foreign players,” he added.

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