Dharamsala's loss is Kolkata's gain!
The marquee India-Pakistan encounter in the International Cricket Council's World Twenty20, on March 19, will be played at the iconic Eden Gardens, in Kolkata.
The ICC announced on Wednesday evening that Kolkata will stage the match.
"A decision has been taken to relocate the India-Pakistan match from Dharamsala to Kolkata due to security reasons. The match will now be played at the same time and date (March 19, 7:30 pm)," ICC Chief Executive Officer Dave Richardson said at a press conference.
"The concerns initially arose following alleged public comments recently reported by the Chief Minister of Hamachal Pradesh, warning of demonstration and attempts to disrupt the peaceful conduct of the match. Our concerns relate both to uncertainty as to the level of those threats as well as the level of commitment to implement any security plan developed to mitigate such treats," he added, explaining the decision.
Richardson said the decision to relocate the match has been conveyed to the Pakistan Cricket Board.
"Our decision has been conveyed to the PCB and they would advice the government of the decision.
"In India, it is the state which develops the security plans and we have been given assurance by all the state associations and the security plans will be implemented," he said.
Asked if the Board of Control for Cricket in India or Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), the state association, would face any sanction, Richardson replied in the negative.
"We understand the circumstances. India is a big and complicated country and there are challenges with every ICC event. It is the best decision to shift the match to Kolkata.
"It's not unprecedented. It's unfortunate these concerns were raised. It was better if raised early. It's a difficult decision. We wanted to stick to the original plan but we were forced into it (relocation).
"ICC has not lost faith in India. There are huge logistics challenges. There are 59 matches in total, across eight venues. And first time with women matches are also being held (with the men's tournament.)
"It is too early to take any disciplinary action against a state association. If we didn't have the match then we would have had more grounds, but here we have relocated the match and it was the best option," he said.
Anurag Thakur, secretary of the BCCI and a Member of Parliament, expressed his disappointment at the move, stating: "It is extremely unfortunate that the venue for match between India and Pakistan has been shifted at the last minute. While the State’s reputation has been jeopardized, however, the nation also has been projected in a rather bad light. It will reflect a dent on India and send a message to the global audience that our country is not capable of ensuring security for as less as 30 people.
"Pakistan has never raised any issues pertaining to their participation in a cricket event. However, owing to the petty politics played misusing the emotions of martyrs’ families, HP CM (Virbhadra Singh) ensured that PCB demanded utmost assurance before confirming participation," read a statement from Thakur.
The change in venue comes in the wake of a late night development on Tuesday, when the Pakistan Cricket Board put its team's departure to India on hold following security concerns for the match, originally scheduled to be played in Dharamsala.
"Logistically, and from security point of view, Kolkata is the ideal place for the match as they would not have to travel to Dharamshala... It's feasible from the broadcasting point of view as they would not have to bother about the cost for taking the expensive broadcasting kit to another venue," a BCCI official had said earlier in the day.
As per the ICC itinerary, the Pakistan team was slated to camp in Kolkata, where they will play two warm-up games (against Bengal on March 12 and Sri Lanka on March 14) and one in the main round against a Group A qualifier March 16.
The team was to arrive late evening on Wednesday and fly out to Dharamsala on March 17.
After a recce of Dharamsala, the PCB was reluctant to play there citing security concerns.
"The Himachal Pradesh chief minister has not committed full security for the match and the Indian government has also not come up with any assuring statement... Under the prevailing circumstances how can we allow our team to play there?" PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan said on Tuesday.