InternationalWorld Cup

Pakistan’s pre-world cup plans disrupted by visa delay

The Pakistan squad was initially scheduled to fly to the UAE early next week and stay for a couple of days before heading to Hyderabad, in preparation for their first warm-up game against New Zealand on September 29. However, Pakistan has adjusted its plans and now intends to depart from Lahore to Dubai early next Wednesday and then proceed to Hyderabad from there. While one official described the situation as “alarming,” there remains a general confidence that the visas will arrive in time for Pakistan to travel. The visa applications were submitted over a week ago.

Picture: Getty Images

As of now, it is understood that Pakistan is the only one among the nine teams traveling to India for the World Cup that is still awaiting visas. This delay underscores the complex and tense political backdrop against which the team is traveling to India. Travel between the two countries is extremely limited due to the challenging and often unfruitful visa application process.

Cross-border cricket matches have also become a rarity. Neither team has visited the other’s country for a bilateral series since Pakistan’s trip to India for a white-ball series in 2012-13. That trip itself was an exception amid the consistent deterioration in relations between the two countries since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. Pakistan has toured India only once in the past ten years, during the T20 World Cup in March 2016.

Pakistan’s participation in this ODI World Cup has already been the subject of negotiations, including those related to the recent Asia Cup. Pakistan was the official host of the event, but only four matches were held in Pakistan, with India’s team not receiving clearance to travel there. Consequently, most of the tournament was played in Sri Lanka, following a hybrid model devised by then PCB chief Najam Sethi.

At one point in earlier negotiations this year, the PCB suggested a similar hybrid model for the World Cup, where Pakistan would play its matches outside of India, possibly in Bangladesh. However, this idea, which also raised questions about whether India would travel to Pakistan for the Champions Trophy in February 2025, was never seriously considered. In August, the Pakistan government granted clearance for the team to travel to India.

The tournament’s schedule was also adjusted due to requests from police forces in several cities, primarily Ahmedabad and Kolkata, where match dates were conflicting with important religious festivals. As a result, a total of nine matches were rescheduled.

Pakistan’s first warm-up game, scheduled against New Zealand next Friday, will be played behind closed doors in Hyderabad because local authorities were unable to provide sufficient security assurances. The game coincides with two major religious festivals in the city.

It’s worth noting that only two players from Pakistan’s current squad have prior experience playing cricket in India: Mohammad Nawaz, who was part of Pakistan’s 2016 T20 World Cup squad, and Agha Salman, who was in the Lahore Lions’ squad for the Champions League T20.

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