Dharamsala

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Dharamsala's loss, Kolkata's gain. Marquee Indo-Pak clash moved

UPDATE AT MIDNIGHT: Still no travel go-ahead for the Pakistani teams:

UPDATE: The Pakistan Cricket Board has released a statement. It said,

"Welcome ICC's decision of shifting #WT20 Pakistan Vs .India game scheduled in Dharamsala on 19th March, to Kolkata.

Pending this assurance and recommendation by security delegation, decided to defer the departure of Pakistan men and women teams."

Dharamsala's loss is Kolkata's gain. The marquee World Twenty20 match clash between neighbours India and Pakistan to be held on 19 March at Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium has now been given to Eden Gardens.

The Himachal government expressed inability to give provide security to the Pakistani cricket team and officials. This was announced by Dave Richardson, the chief executive of the International Cricket Council, at a press conference in Delhi on Wednesday.

"Unavoidable circumstances for ICC and BCCI , but security is paramount." said Richardson. This development ends weeks of uncertainty over the fixture, venue and whether Pakistan would even contest one of the most awaited clashes of the tournament.

The match will be held on the same date and at the same time. "Security concerns arose following public comments reported in media allegedly made by HP CM warning of potential demonstrations" said Richardson.

The Pakistan Cricket Board wanted the match to be shifted out of Dharamsala. Bangalore, Kolkata and Mohali were offered as alternatives. Mohali already had some matches, and each zone was already adequately represented. Kolkata scored the knock-out punch.

"India is a complicated country. There are challenges for the BCCI. We accept that," continued Richardson. "Security of players is of prime concern. ICC hasn't thought of punishing BCCI".

The main reason given for the past few weeks by Pakistan, the Himachal Pradesh CM and others has been security. Whether or not the hotel was safe, the road from the hotel to the venue was safe, and whether the players could play without any security concerns at the venue.

The main issue raised by fans and spectators is of the late response from the Himachal Pradesh government. The other main question is whether or not there will be a fresh lottery for tickets or if fans will be left in the lurch.

"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."

On the issue of concerns related to the match, "our concerns relate both to uncertainty as to level of those threats and also uncertainty as to level of commitment to implement security plans that have been developed to mitigate those threats," said Richardson. "A difficult decision. Not the one we wanted to take. We wanted to stick to original plan, but we've been forced into."

Anurag Thakur, BCCI secretary, had earlier said that because of the negative responses given by the PCB and the state government, ICC had to take an immediate call.

For the fans though, this will be a bitter pill to swallow. Yes, more people will be able to watch the match inside the stadium. Eden Gardens capacity is almost three times more than the stadium in Dharamsala. Re-booking tickets and hotel bookings will be the need of the hour for all those who have tickets and those hoping to get their hands upon some.

Also read: World T20: Politics hold cricket hostage in Himachal; Kolkata likely to host Indo-Pak match

Also read: World T20: Pak unwilling to play in Dharamsala citing security reasons

Also read: Relief for Delhi: HC nod for WT20 games, but illegal stand shut to crowd & VIPs

Sahil Bhalla

Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla