Sports, Cricket

Pakistan players finally get Indian visa for World Cup

Published : 26 Sep 2023 09:32 PM

The most recent drama surrounding the World Cup relates to Pakistan's visa delay issues.

The World Cup is so close that the number of days remaining for the opener between England and New Zealand can be counted on fingers. 

Yet, controversy simply doesn't seem to leave the tournament. The rescheduling of fixtures finally out of the way, the latest drama gripping the World Cup is Pakistan's issues regarding a delay in getting visas. 

Players of the Pakistan cricket team were finally issued their visas on Monday – 48 hours before their scheduled departure to India – but it wasn’t before the matter had to be escalated. 

The last team approved by the Indian government to travel, the PCB had to write to the ICC asking for an intervention to sort out the issue. 

This led to a lot of chaos, involving the ICC, PCB and the BCCI, the lowdown of which we are going to elaborate on. It was last Friday that concerns surrounding Pakistan's visas came to light. As per original plans, the players were supposed to fly to the UAE for a couple of days as part of a team-building exercise and then reach India two days ahead of their World Cup warm-up against New Zealand in Hyderabad. 

However, with the visas still stuck at the Indian High Commission, those plans couldn't come to fruition. But that wasn't the only concern. With visas granted to all 9 teams barring Pakistan, the PCB expressed its displeasure at India and the BCCI's indifference, but as ESPNCricinfo reported, their hands were tied too.

In the first week of August, the home ministry wrote to the BCCI stating Security clearance of Ministry of Home Affairs is required for the event (World Cup) only if there are foreign participant from the PRC countries i.e., Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, foreigners of Pakistani Origin and Stateless persons. And given the tension-filled history between India and Pakistan, and the reluctance of either team to travel to the other nation, there was no way it couldn't have been a time-consuming process.

Visa applications were made available to teams at the end of August, but Pakistan encountered a delay due to their participation in the Asia Cup. 

Given the tournament's unique hybrid model, which required players to travel back and forth to Sri Lanka for league and Super Four matches, Pakistan had requested permission to submit applications without their passports. 

But their request was denied, leaving them with no alternative but to wait until the entire squad returned home to submit their passports.

On September 19, both the applications and passports were finally submitted. Having said that, in the following days, there was no official update, causing the PCB to become increasingly concerned. It wasn't until Monday that the visa issuance process accelerated, following the PCB's official communication with the ICC regarding the perceived lack of responsiveness. The fact that Pakistan received the green light for visa clearance within a week is actually not a significant delay, all things considered.

 It's unlikely that the delay was due to the squad announcement on September 22, as the visa applications had already been submitted by then. Essentially, the PCB was aware of which players were meant to be part of their World Cup line-up. Furthermore, there were squads that were announced much later, and yet none of them faced any delays.

The root cause behind this entire situation can be attributed to two main factors: the Asia Cup and the ongoing tensions between the two countries. 

If the entire tournament had been hosted in Pakistan, avoiding the need for constant travel to Sri Lanka and back, the visa applications might just have been submitted on time. Additionally, improved relations between the two nations could have led to faster and prompt workflow. 

After all, Indian and Pakistan cricket teams haven't travelled to each other's countries for a bilateral series since 2012, and even the last time Pakistan visited India was seven years ago in 2016 for the T20 World Cup.