Pakistan’s participation at World Cup in India subject to government approval, says PCB chair

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Pakistan’s involvement at the 50-over World Cup in India later this year remains subject to their government’s approval. According to PCB chairman Najam Sethi, the board has written to the ICC, following the release of a draft schedule to all participating countries last week, to stress that they cannot unilaterally approve the fixture list.

“We have written to the ICC that we can’t give approval or disapproval to this (World Cup schedule),” Sethi said. “It’s our government who has to decide, just like when it comes to India, it’s their government that decides when they go to play. There is no point asking us if we will play in Ahmedabad. When the time comes, first it will be decided whether we are going or not, then the government decides where we will go. Our decision will rest on these two important conditions.”

The 2023 World Cup, as reported by ESPNcricinfo, is slated to begin on October 5. The India vs Pakistan fixture is set for 10 days later in Ahmedabad. Pakistan are scheduled to play across five venues during the league phase. They haven’t toured India since the 2016 T20 World Cup.

There has been an unprecedented delay in announcing the schedule; World Cup itineraries are put out at least a year in advance. A fresh update may come on June 27.

The BCCI secretary Jay Shah had originally indicated the fixture list would be made available during the World Test Championship final, played on June 7-11 in London. But that didn’t happen.

Sethi suggested the delay could be because of the PCB needing more time to respond after the ICC had sought feedback on the World Cup itinerary from the boards of all the participating countries as well its broadcasters. “The BCCI were about to announce the schedule but we told them we can’t confirm without government approval.”

Sethi did not put a timeframe on when the Pakistan government would give them an answer, but it is unlikely to be soon considering the country is preparing for the general elections due to take place in October.

Najam Sethi speaks to media personnel outside the PCB headquarters•PCB

Even in 2016, the PCB had sought government clearance after which a three-member team came to India to do recon of the venues where Pakistan were scheduled to play their matches. Eventually Pakistan’s match at Dharamsala was moved to Kolkata.

“I have taken up the issue with Prime Minister and they haven’t deliberated about this,” Sethi said. “The PM said they have to involve the foreign office as well and have to think through so it’s premature [to ask permission now]. Also, we don’t know who will be in power by then so there is no development right now. But when there is a stable government, the time will come and we will ask them [whether we can tour India].

“We have also told ICC that considering the security situation, if our government allows us to go we will go otherwise we can’t do much. But if they give us permission then it comes down to our venue preference where we are going to play. It’s the government’s decision, not the board’s so we leave it to them. The PCB and BCCI can’t decide. Our respective governments will take that call just like we did back in 2016.”

The PCB took strong exception to Shah’s statement and initiated discussions with all participating boards until finally there was a consensus. While Sethi said a full schedule will be put out in a week’s time, it is known that four matches will take place in Pakistan and remaining nine will be held in Sri Lanka, including the final. India and Pakistan, who are in the same group as Nepal, will face each other twice during the group stages, and then once more if they make the final.

“The formula we gave to the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) was a middle ground, it was not like win or lose but it was a rational way to the problem. The schedule is being worked out, we demanded few changes and the debate is ongoing on it, but they have already said that there will be four games in Pakistan. There’s a misconception that there are two hosts, all the gates receipts are ours. Initial four matches will be in Pakistan and then the teams will travel back to Sri Lanka. It’s a very tight schedule and there are lots of logistical issues. We sat together with broadcasters and the five participating countries and it wasn’t easy to finalise it. But finally, we have broken the ice and tackled all the problems.”

Sethi also highlighted how difficult it was to arrive at this solution. “India has a big clout in the ICC, and you can well imagine how much their clout would have been in the ACC. We did a lot of hard work, nobody was willing to listen to us. I pulled the strings, did several meetings in Dubai and Bahrain, and countless Zoom calls and then we reached that we are the hosts. They were even saying that we will take the hosting rights from you and give them to Sri Lanka. But finally, our hybrid model was accepted. The importance of the hybrid model will be known to you in the future when we want to use it.”

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