Flight fares have quadrupled; hotels in Ahmedabad have sold out in anticipation and this is before the sale of tickets for the India-Pakistan World Cup match has even opened. It is the most anticipated cricketing face-off and the ministry of external affairs is hoping for a “a good match and not a war”.
“I hope that there is a good match and it is not a war as it is made out to be so,’’ said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi at a weekly press briefing. He was responding to a question as to India’s reaction to Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto’s comments at his last press briefing that Pakistan “has consistently maintained that sports should not be mixed with politics’’ and that the team should go to India and win."
The last bilateral cricket competition the two teams played in a white-ball format in India was in 2012. The two teams are expected to play against each other on October 14 in Ahmedabad. Pakistan had set up a committee, headed by Bhutto, to evaluate whether the cricket team should participate in the ICC World Cup. While Pakistan has agreed to play, a foreign office statement issued on August 6 said that there were “deep concerns about the security of its Cricket Team.’’ These concerns, the statement read, had been conveyed to ICC and the Indian authorities.
Responding to a query on the kind of security arrangements provided, Bagchi said: “We have seen these reports regarding the Pakistan cricket team’s participation in the upcoming ICC World Cup to be hosted by India. The Pakistan cricket team will be treated just like the cricket team of any other country participating in the ICC World Cup. We hope all necessary security is provided to them and all the other countries.”
Pakistan team will be playing in venues across India-- Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata. But the big clash will take place in Ahmedabad. The relationship between the two neighbours may be frosty—certainly combative—but there has been a slow increase in engagement through sports. And it is not only in cricket, but also in hockey. The Pakistan hockey team is currently in India to participate in the Asian Champions Trophy.