ICC World T20 - Men
India-Pakistan WT20 clash moved to Kolkata
Dharamshala ditched after security concerns raised by Pakistan prompt ICC to switch venues 10 days before World T20 blockbuster
9 March 2016, 10:30 PM AEST
India's blockbuster World T20 clash with Pakistan has been moved to Kolkata's Eden Gardens after the visitors raised security concerns about arrangements in Dharamshala.
As Bangladesh and the Netherlands played their World T20 group stage match in the northern India city, the International Cricket Council was stripping the venue of its biggest match at a hastily arranged press conference in Delhi just 10 days out from the clash.
ICC Chief Executive Dave Richardson confirmed the match would be played at Eden Gardens on March 19, citing uncertainty about the level of security available.
"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.
"As far as those who have purchased tickets online for the match, they will be offered the choice of a full refund or the opportunity to exchange their tickets for ones for the Kolkata match.
"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."
Eden Gardens, which will also host the World T20 final on April 3, holds some 66,000 people while the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium in Dharamshala has a capacity of 23,000.
Although Pakistan are yet to play a T20 in Kolkata, they have 100% winning record against India in ODIs at Eden Gardens. Played 4, Won 4.— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) March 9, 2016
The Pakistan Cricket Board had asked the ICC to consider Kolkata or Mohali as alternate venues to Dharamshala for the March 19 match against the tournament hosts.
BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur, who is also the HPCA president, hit out at the the region's Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who he says had caused political unrest and stirred up tensions in the lead-up to the tournament.
"The Chief Minister saying that atmosphere is not good raises a question mark. When you say the match can't take place nine days before the tournament, I don't think any Chief Minister of other states would make a statement like that," Thakur told reporters.
"I can only say that a wrong signal has been sent to the world by (Virbhadra). His statements nine days before a world event like this could have been avoided.
"The first match will played in Dharamshala today and the Chief Minister saying that the venue is not safe, it dents the image of the state and country."
The Pakistan players had been scheduled to fly to Kolkata today but delayed their departure for India as officials pushed for the venue change.
Pakistan will now play four matches in Kolkata and two in Mohali before the knock-out stages. They are scheduled to play their first warm-up match at a regional venue in Kolkata on Saturday against a local team before playing Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens in their second warm-up next Monday, March 14.
Pakistan start their Super 10 stage at Eden Gardens on March 16 against the qualifier from Group A, which could be fellow subcontinent nation Bangladesh.
They had then been expected to travel to the north of India for the blockbuster against the host nation but will now avoid Dharamshala and instead remain in Kolkata to face India.
Pakistan's focus then switches to Mohali for Super 10 matches against New Zealand (March 22) and Australia (March 25).
As host nation, India was to play each match in a separate city so the logistical change has little impact for the players. They will now play in Nagpur, Kolkata, Bangalore and Mohali.
India team director Ravi Shastri told reporters he was unaware of the change less than two hours before the ICC made the announcement.
"We don't know, we've not heard anything, where we will play we don't know," Shastri told reporters at Eden Gardens today.
"But one thing is wherever you play in India, India-Pakistan will draw a huge crowd."
A Pakistan security delegation visited Dharamshala on Monday, prompting the call for a venue change after an internal report deemed 'security is not assured' at the picturesque ground.
Subcontinent news outlets reported a three-man delegation turned in a report to the PCB and Pakistan's federal interior minister, Chaudary Nisar, resulting in the Pakistan team not travelling to India on Wednesday as planned.
Australia open their World T20 campaign in Dharamshala against trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand on March 18, the only Super 10 game in the city.
India and Pakistan have not met in a Test match since December 2007, while Pakistan have played just four ODIs and two T20 internationals since then in India, due to ongoing political tensions between the neighbouring nations.
The move comes only days after Richardson had said Pakistan's matches would go ahead at the nominated venues as planned.
"Pakistan won't pull out of World T20," Richardson said earlier this week. "We are confident that the matches will proceed in respective venues.
"The venues were decided a year back and all arrangements are in place to stage the matches at those two venues (Delhi, where the women's match between India and Pakistan will be played and Dharamsala).
"These challenges have reasons not through the fault of the BCCI or the ICC. But the fact is that we are dealing with these and we are confident that the matches will proceed at those two venues.
"The Indian government has shown a commitment to make sure that adequate security measures are in place at all the venues for all the teams.
"I can assure you that the BCCI and PCB are communicating, as is the ICC with both the parties. We will make sure we do everything we can to make sure the event takes place in a safe and secure environment."
World T20 tournament director MV Sridhar had said as recently as Tuesday: "The match is on. The state and central governments are on board and all security arrangements have been made."