Pakistan's Sports Minister, Ehsaanm Mazari, has announced that the Pakistani cricket team, lead by Babar Azam, will not travel to India for the upcoming World Cup if the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) insists on hosting the Asia Cup at a neutral venue.
‘’If India wants a neutral location for their Asia Cup games, then Pakistan would want the same for their World Cup games in India,’’ the Minister said in an interview with Indian Express.
Mazari's comments reaffirmed Pakistan's commitment to playing in the World Cup, which will be held in India later this year. After the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) settled on a hybrid format for the 2019 Asia Cup, the two organisations released the following statement. Mazari's proposal, though, throws a wrench into the works and causes worry that Pakistan may boycott the World Cup.
Mazari's statement was made just one day after Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif established a committee to evaluate the country's participation in the World Cup. A number of factors, such as security and diplomatic issues, will be examined by this committee before a final decision is made.
There has been a reoccurring trend in recent years of animosity between the cricket boards of India and Pakistan. Disruptions to bilateral cricketing relationships and the need to play at neutral sites are frequent results of the tense relations between the two countries. Both boards are stubbornly opposed to giving ground on the subject of holding matches in neutral sites.
Concerns have been raised by cricket fans and the organisers of the World Cup at the prospect of Pakistan's refusal to participate. The already tense cricket relations between India and Pakistan would likely worsen if Pakistan were to skip the tournament.
Any decision to withdraw from the tournament by Pakistan would have far-reaching ramifications for both cricket and the diplomatic relations between the two countries, so the cricketing world will be watching developments attentively.
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