A diplomatic tempest has ignited within the realm of cricket, casting a shadow over the upcoming Cricket World Cup. Pakistan finds itself entangled in a visa conundrum, compelling them to cancel a crucial trip to Dubai, a prelude to the tournament set in cricket-crazed India.
The visa debacle unfurls against a backdrop of simmering tensions between neighboring rivals, India and Pakistan. Their cricketing relations have been ensnared in the thorny tendrils of politics, with the two nations abstaining from bilateral matches since 2013. The Indian authorities, it seems, have reserved their approval only for encounters within the cocoon of multi-team extravaganzas.
The imminent 13th edition of the World Cup, exclusively hosted by India, commences on October 5, while Pakistan’s inaugural warm-up skirmish, against New Zealand in Hyderabad, looms on September 29. However, an eerie silence will replace the fervent cheers of fans as this match has been relegated to a spectator-less affair. Local authorities failed to furnish the requisite security guarantees for a public showdown.
Still, there’s a flicker of hope that Pakistan will secure their visas in time to partake in their first warm-up duel. A hasty rearrangement has them charting a course from Lahore to Delhi and onwards to Hyderabad. Unfortunately, no direct flights connect these cricketing rivals, obliging Pakistan to traverse the cumbersome route through a transit hub.
Initially, Pakistan had charted a course for a preparatory sojourn in Dubai before venturing into the heart of the cricketing giant, India. Alas, despite the timely submission of visa applications, Pakistan remains in limbo, a stark contrast to the swift approvals granted to other participating teams.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) had been promised by the Indian government that visas would be dispensed expeditiously to all participating squads. In August, the Pakistan government sanctioned its team’s participation in the tournament, granting them access to all host venues.
Ehsan Mani, former chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board and a prominent figure within the ICC, has sounded a stern warning. He asserts that if Pakistan’s visas continue to languish in bureaucratic purgatory, the ICC could seek reparations from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
“BCCI, under its hosting agreement with ICC, is obliged to provide visas in a timely manner for the team and officials, Pakistani journalists, and fans,” Mani pointedly states. He goes on to remind the cricketing world that assurances were unequivocally offered by former BCCI President Sourav Ganguly that these obligations would be duly met.
The saga is further complicated by the history of frosty relations between the two cricketing titans. Since the devastating Mumbai attacks in November 2008, orchestrated by a militant organization from Pakistan, India and Pakistan have navigated treacherous diplomatic waters. The grandiose promise of six cricket series between 2015 and 2023, inked by the Pakistan Cricket Board in 2014, has withered into oblivion, with none of these high-voltage encounters seeing the light of day.
As the cricketing world watches, a pall of uncertainty shrouds this much-anticipated tournament, while the ripples of diplomatic discord threaten to disrupt the cherished tradition of cricketing rivalry.
News Source: Telegraph