Pakistan would prefer playing bulk of their 2023 Men’s Cricket World Cup matches in the Indian cities of Chennai and Kolkata — the two venues where the team reportedly felt safe during its earlier tours.
The World Cup will start tentatively on October 5, with 46 matches, including the final set to be played across 12 Indian cities, including Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Mumbai, Rajkot, Bengaluru, Delhi, Indore, Guwahati and Hyderabad, Dharamasala.
It is understood that discussions are currently on at the ICC level as Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) bigwigs are in talks with a top-level ICC executive on the issue, which still remains a sensitive one.
“A lot will depend on what BCCI and the Indian government decide but given a choice, Pakistan will like to play most of its World Cup matches in Kolkata and Chennai,” according to indian media reports.
“In Kolkata, Pakistan played its T20 World Cup game against India in 2016 and the players were very happy with the security. Similarly, Chennai as a venue remains memorable for Pakistan. It’s also about feeling safe at specific venues,”
The bone of contention will be the India versus Pakistan game. While Ahmedabad with 132,000 capacity gives ICC the best chance to earn optimum profits but the Narendra Modi Stadium is already hosting the final, so another venue might host the game.
Each team will play nine games at the league stage which will be held in round-robin format.
The ICC’s Events Committee, in association with host cricket board BCCI, will chalk out the final itinerary in the next few months so that it allows fans across India and other parts to plan their travel itinerary.
Recently, ICC General Manager Wasim Khan, in his own capacity had told Pakistani media that the team could play its matches in Bangladesh as a part of a ‘hybrid model’ that could be followed since the Indian team is not travelling to the country for the Asia Cup.
But the PCB’s interim Management Committee chairman Najam Sethi, back then had rubbished the idea of playing World Cup games in Bangladesh. More so, ICC had made it clear that no such proposal had come from Pakistan about a ‘hybrid model’ for global tournaments.
During the 2011 World Cup, Pakistan’s semi-final against India was played at Mohali, which made it logistically convenient for the fans across the border to travel through Wagah Border. However, Mohali does not figure in the 12 venues finalised by the BCCI. In 1996, the high-profile quarter-final was held at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
A lot has changed since then and in these sensitive times, it will be very difficult to host Pakistan in some of the specific venues, including Mumbai and Dharamsala.
While security will be top-notch for each team, the BCCI as well as the Indian government would like to ensure that there aren’t any untoward incidents.