Ehsaan Mazari says if India demands to play Asia Cup Games at a neutral venue, Pakistan will also demand the same for World Cup games in India; Mazari is member of PM Shehbaz Sharif’s committee set up to decide on team’s participation.
The minister in-charge of sports in Pakistan, Ehsaan Mazari, has said that if India avoids travelling across the border for the Asia Cup, his country will withdraw from the 2023 World Cup in India.
Speaking to 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.”
The statement came a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif formed a high-profile committee to dwell on the issue of the country’s participation in the October-November World Cup that India is hosting. Sharing the mandate of the committee Mazari said, “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.”
Mazari, who heads the Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination that has sports under its umbrella, said that the Bhutto-headed committee is likely to share their report with the PM any time next week. That will also be the time when the new PCB chief Zaka Asharf will be attending an important International Cricket Council (ICC) meeting in South Africa. With the BCCI secretary Jay Shah, who is also the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) chief, also in Durban for the meet, discussion on Asia Cup and World Cup are expected to take place.
While the Asia Cup schedule isn’t out yet, it is learnt that there is a general consensus in the ACC that the event will be jointly-hosted by Pakistan and Sri Lanka. India is expected to play all their games in Sri Lanka. However, Mazari said that he wasn’t in favour of this ‘hybrid model’. “Pakistan is the host, 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,” he said.
The minister said that India’s reluctance to play cricket in Pakistan was puzzling to him. “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.
When asked about India’s long-standing reservation about the security of their cricketers in Pakistan, Mazari says that “it 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 said.
Mazari appealed for the resumption of cricket tours between the two countries. “It is one the most-watched cricket games on TV. We want that, we want healthy cricket to be played. We expect a positive response from India,” he said.
Meanwhile, ICC, in the past, has urged Pakistan to travel to India for the World Cup. “Pakistan have signed a participation agreement to compete and we expect them to be there and have had no indications to the contrary,” an ICC statement. “All members have to abide by the rules and the laws of their country and we respect that. But we’re confident Pakistan will be in India for the Men’s Cricket World Cup.”
The minister also reacted to the previous PCB chairman Najam Sethi’s comment on BCCI slotting Pakistan’s World Cup game against India at Ahmedabad. In an interview to this paper Sethi had said, “When I heard this statement (India to play Pakistan in Ahmedabad), I smiled and said to myself – ‘this is one way to make sure we don’t come to India’.
Mazari expressed no such reservations. “I don’t think Ahmedabad will be an issue. Pakistan has played there earlier. But before that there should be a positive response from India. India should play in Pakistan. Zaka Ashraf (PCB chairman) has gone to South Africa and so let’s see what is decided and what happens,” he said.
Source: The Indian Express