The Pakistan cricket team’s plans for a pre-World Cup team-bonding trip to Dubai have been cancelled due to ongoing delays in obtaining Indian visas.
Originally scheduled to fly to the UAE early next week and then proceed to Hyderabad for their first warm-up game against New Zealand on September 29, the team has now adjusted its travel plans. They will fly out of Lahore to Dubai early next Wednesday and proceed to Hyderabad from there. Despite concerns among officials, there is a prevailing sense of optimism that the visas will arrive in time for the team’s travel, as visa applications were submitted over a week ago.
As of now, Pakistan is the sole team among the nine traveling to India for the World Cup still awaiting visas. This delay underscores the complex and tense political environment in which the team’s journey to India is taking place. Travel between the two countries for their citizens is exceedingly limited due to the challenging and often unfruitful visa application process.
Moreover, cricket matches between the two nations have become increasingly rare, with neither team visiting the other’s country for a bilateral series since Pakistan’s visit to India for a white-ball series in 2012-13. This trip was an exception amid a deteriorating relationship following the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Pakistan visited India once in the past decade, for the T20 World Cup in March 2016.
The participation of Pakistan in this ODI World Cup has been a subject of negotiation and trip to Dubai cancelled, including the recent Asia Cup, where Pakistan hosted but only a few matches were held in their country due to India’s team not being allowed to travel to Pakistan. Most of the tournament took place in Sri Lanka under a hybrid model.
Earlier this year, PCB floated the idea of a similar hybrid model for the World Cup, with Pakistan playing their matches outside of India, possibly in Bangladesh. However, this idea was not seriously considered, and in August, the Pakistan government granted clearance for the team to travel to India.
The tournament schedule was also adjusted to accommodate requests from police forces in several cities, primarily Ahmedabad and Kolkata, where match dates were coinciding with important religious festivals. A total of nine matches were rescheduled as a result.
Pakistan’s first warm-up game against New Zealand, scheduled for the next Friday, will be played behind closed doors in Hyderabad due to concerns over security. Hyderabad has two major religious festivals around the date of the game.
It’s worth noting that only two players from Pakistan’s current squad have prior experience traveling to India for cricket: Mohammad Nawaz, who was part of Pakistan’s 2016 T20 World Cup squad, and Agha Salman, who was in the Lahore Lions’ squad for the Champions League T20.