Monday, November 9, 2009

Pakistan would be welcomed for final - Sharad Pawar

Sharad Pawar, the chairman of the 2011 World Cup's organising committee, is confident that should Pakistan make it to the final of the tournament, India would welcome them to play at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

Relations between the governments of India and Pakistan were strained following the terror attacks in Mumbai last November and bilateral cricket between the countries was put on hold. India's tour to Pakistan, scheduled for early 2009, was cancelled and Pakistan players were asked by their government not to travel to India for any events. Pawar, however, was confident there would be no hurdles if Pakistan made it into the final of an event like the World Cup.

"There is no exception whether it is Pakistan or any other country," Pawar said after the 2011 World Cup fixtures were announced in Mumbai. "I am confident the sport-loving population of this country [India] will welcome anybody who reaches the stage [the final]."

Pakistan, who lost its share of World Cup matches because of the adverse security situation in the country, are in Group A and will play all their league matches in Sri Lanka. The schedule is such that only if Pakistan make it past the semi-finals will they have to play in India.

The 43-day event comprises 49 games spread over three countries and 13 venues and is a week shorter than the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive was optimistic that the 2011 tournament would erase the negative memories of 2007 competition.

Lorgat said the 2011 format was slicker, competitive and exciting. "It is fair to say that it is almost a week less than the previous edition and that in itself should help make it more concise," Lorgat said. "But we have done everything, bearing in mind that there are 14 teams competing across three countries so you've got to take logistics into account, so I hope it is a slicker than the previous World Cup."

Lorgat said the format of this tournament - two groups of seven teams - ensured there was "more opportunity" for a team to make it to the quarter-finals, unlike in 2007 when one bad game made it difficult to qualify for the next round. He did not think that the quality of cricket would be weaker in 2011, considering there are four Associates teams in the tournament. "There is a balance between providing opportunities for all of our members to get to the flagship event," Lorgat said. "We have reduced it from previous six Associates teams qualifying down to four now. But we have to be mindful about finding a balance between the length and an opportunity for all our members to participate."

Lorgat said the Associates would be more than a handful in 2011 compared to the previous edition because of the exhaustive qualification process. "The qualifying process, which started after the 2007 World Cup, was very competitive. We now have got a decent balance with only four teams added to 10 teams who are strong by their very stature and we hope to have some competitive games."

When Pawar was asked if the organisers would adopt the same model adopted by CARICOM during the 2007 World Cup - to give a common visa to fans to travel across India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - he was optimistic. "That is a suggestion. We are discussing this with the government to offer a common visa for all three countries hosting the event."

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