The International Cricket Council (ICC) confirmed that the Indian government has approved visas for the Pakistan squad traveling to the World Cup, although the approval came less than 48 hours before the team was due to fly out to Hyderabad via Dubai. This situation had caused concerns and frustrations for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) due to the delay in visa issuance.
The PCB had initially expressed its displeasure to the ICC regarding the delay in visa issuance and sent a formal email to the ICC, complaining about the inequitable treatment faced by Pakistan as the only team participating in the World Cup that had to wait this long for visas.
In their email, the PCB asked the ICC about the steps it intended to take to resolve the issue and inquired whether written confirmations had been provided by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or the Indian government regarding visas for all participating nations. It was mentioned that the BCCI had verbally assured the ICC at its annual conference in Durban that visas for the Pakistan contingent would be facilitated in time, but it wasn’t confirmed whether this assurance was put in writing.
The PCB also raised the question of whether the delay in providing visas constituted a breach of the hosting agreement for the World Cup.
Despite these delays, Pakistan is set to fly out to Dubai and then travel to Hyderabad to participate in the World Cup. Their first warm-up game is scheduled against New Zealand in Hyderabad on Friday.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has expressed disappointment and frustration over the delay in obtaining Indian visas for the Pakistan cricket team ahead of the ICC World Cup. The PCB had been reminding the relevant authorities about their visa obligations for the past three years, and the situation came to a head just two days before their first warm-up game scheduled for September 29.
The delay in obtaining visas had forced the Pakistan team to cancel a planned two-day team-bonding trip to the UAE before their arrival in India because their passports were with the Indian high commission in Islamabad, making travel impossible.
In a statement, PCB spokesperson Umar Farooq expressed concern over the extraordinary delay in obtaining clearance and securing Indian visas for the Pakistan team. The PCB had also raised concerns with the International Cricket Council (ICC) about what they perceived as inequitable treatment towards Pakistan in this matter and reminded the ICC of its obligations towards the World Cup.
According to the PCB, the visa application process began at the end of August when they received an invitation letter from the ICC, which was a part of their submission to the Indian High Commission. Initially, the PCB had sought to submit visa applications without physical passports because the Pakistan team was traveling to and from Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup, for which Pakistan was the official host. However, they were informed that this was not possible, and they applied for visas on September 19, shortly after the team’s return from the Asia Cup.
The delay in obtaining Indian visas has not only affected the Pakistan cricket team but also players of Pakistani origin from other countries. Here are some additional details:
Two players from the Netherlands, Shariz Ahmed and Saqib Zulfiqar, both of Pakistani origin, were unable to travel to Bengaluru in late August for a preparatory camp organized by the Dutch board because they did not receive their visas in time.
The Royal Dutch Cricket Association (KNCB) had applied for visas for the Dutch squad on August 8. Like other participating teams, the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) sent invitation letters and sought permission from various Indian government departments, including the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, and Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs.
The Home Ministry had specified that security clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs was required only for participants from certain categories, including foreign participants from Pakistan and individuals of Pakistani origin. Those from these categories needed security clearance before visas could be granted.
In the case of Shariz and Zulfiqar, their visas were eventually cleared just days before they were scheduled to travel as part of the Dutch squad to India on September 19, following external intervention.
This visa delay issue is not unique to the World Cup; it has affected players of Pakistani origin traveling to India for cricket events on several occasions. For example, Usman Khawaja, an Australian opener born in Pakistan, faced delays in obtaining a visa and had to fly to India a day later than his teammates. In 2011, he was initially denied a visa before being granted one to play in the Champions League T20 in India for New South Wales. Despite his frequent travels to India, such delays have occurred from time to time.
These instances highlight the challenges faced by players of Pakistani origin and teams traveling to India for cricket events due to the visa clearance process, particularly when they fall under certain categories that require additional security clearance.