Security concerns force ICC to move India-Pakistan World T20 encounter

The International Cricket Council (ICC) was today (Wednesday) forced into the late switch of the World Twenty20 group match between host nation India and Pakistan from Dharamsala to Kolkata owing to security concerns in the former city.

The evening match, which represents one of the fiercest rivalries in world sport, will take place as scheduled on March 19, but has moved location owing to the ongoing concerns of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

Anurag Thakur, secretary for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), last week criticised Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh for stating his concerns over security for the game in Dharamsala.

According to reports in India, Singh said in a letter to the country’s government that his state would not be able to provide the required level of security for the match. In the reported letter, Singh said his concerns only related to the India-Pakistan game, with no mention of other matches. He said that his government was “not opposing holding of matches”, but highlighted a number of recent incidents that have taken place in Dharamsala.

Seven Indian security personnel were killed in a January 2 militant attack on the Indian Air Force Base at Pathankot near Dharamsala, 16 miles from the Pakistan border. Pakistan said today that it had arrested several members of the Kashmir-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, or Army of Mohammad, militant group, which is suspected of leading the attack. Indian war veterans in the nearby state of Himachal Pradesh had opposed hosting the Pakistan cricket team in Dharamsala.

Announcing the relocation decision today, ICC chief executive David Richardson said: “The decision to relocate the match has been made for security reasons. The concerns initially arose following alleged public comments recently reported by the Chief Minister of Hamachal Pradesh, warning of demonstrations and attempts to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the match.

“Our concerns relate both to uncertainty as to the level of those threats as well as the level of commitment to implement any security plan developed to mitigate such threats. The decision was not taken lightly. The ICC and the BCCI understand the disappointment that is likely to be felt by many over the decision to move the match. But the safety and security of the event is of paramount importance to the ICC and we have taken into consideration the concerns shared with us by our security advisors as well as the Pakistan Cricket Board.”

Richardson added: “Finally, I would like to confirm that the ICC has been assured by all relevant state authorities that all adequate security measures are in place and will be implemented to ensure that the event is staged in a safe and secure environment for all stakeholders.”

The World Twenty20 commenced yesterday (Tuesday) with Pakistan due to commence its campaign on March 16. India-Pakistan was one of eight World T20 matches due to take place in Dharamsala.