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Pak national cricket squad

01 February, 2013

The build-up to the International Cricket Council Women's World Cup in India has been dominated by the Pakistan team, though not because of its cricketing prowess.

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Pakistan's involvement in the tournament, which kicked off today, has angered right-wing Hindu groups such as the Shiv Sena at a time when tensions are even more elevated than usual between the two nations. Earlier this month, several cross-border shootings at the Line of Control in Kashmir, a region claimed by both India and Pakistan, left soldiers from both sides dead.

In the aftermath, right-wing groups protested against Pakistani writers planning to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan, as well as Pakistani hockey players taking part in a new Indian league. The organizers of the Hockey India League, which runs to Feb. 10, decided to send nine Pakistani players home. Pakistani authors, including Nadeem Aslam and M.A. Farooqi still attended the Jaipur Literature Festival.

The Pakistan women's cricket team has also been affected, which in turn has changed the shape of the 2013 World Cup. The eight-nation tournament was initially slated to be held entirely in Mumbai, the Shiv Sena's heartland. But the ICC last week rescheduled some of the first and second round matches, including all of those featuring Pakistan, to Cuttack, a city in the eastern Indian state of Orissa following anti-Pakistan protests.

“I am grateful for all the support ICC has received from the Board of Control for Cricket in India during a difficult situation, which was not of cricket's making,” ICC Chief Executive David Richardson said when announcing the venue shift on Jan. 25.

Rather than staying in a hotel, the Pakistani team has been put up at the academy clubhouse in Barabati Stadium, where its rescheduled games will take place, Lucy Benjamin, ICC media manager, confirmed Tuesday.

A notice on the ICC's Twitter account added, “We would like to reiterate that the safety and security of all teams is the highest priority and we have made arrangements accordingly.”

The ICC didn't comment when asked if any threats from within Orissa had been made against the Pakistan team.

Pakistan team manager Ayesha Ashhar wasn't available for comment, but the ICC quoted her as saying, “We are happy with the facilities provided to us by the organizers.”

Shiv Sena spokesman Anil Desai said Tuesday that Pakistan shouldn't be invited for “cricket or any other sport to India.” He accused Pakistan of training terrorists, violating ceasefire agreements, adding that “good gestures” like a cricket match are of “no use.”

The Women's World Cup starts Thursday when host India takes on the West Indies in Mumbai. Pakistan, which is in a different group to India, plays its first match on Friday against Australia, the top seed in Group B.

Pakistan's group games will be held at Cuttack's Barabati Stadium, including its ongoing warm-up matches. Tuesday, Pakistan beat an Orissa XI by 95 runs and Wednesday it will have another warm-up match against a Mumbai XI. Cuttack's DRIEMS Ground will also host matches in Group B, which in addition to Pakistan and Australia features New Zealand and South Africa. India's two other Group A rivals are England and Sri Lanka. Group A matches will all be played in Mumbai.

The World Cup final on Feb. 17 is still scheduled to take place at Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium, the home of the Cricket Club of India. Pakistan would be a very unlikely finalist.

Women's cricket has been dominated by defending World Cup champion England, Australia and New Zealand. The improving West Indies could cause an upset, and India has home advantage, but Pakistan will still dominate some of the headlines.

End.