The ICC and the 2019 World Cup organizing committee remain confident that the tournament’s biggest match, to be played between India and Pakistan on June 16 in Manchester, will go ahead despite the volatile situation between the two countries in the wake of a terrorist attack in Kashmir last week.
With the World Cup starting in exactly 100 days, there are have been scattered voices that want India to boycott the group match against Pakistan. The fixture itself remains the biggest game of the tournament: nearly half a million applications for tickets poured in as soon as the ICC opened its ballot. Even the World Cup final, to be played on July 14 at Lord’s, paled in comparison with about a quarter of a million applications.
Although neither board has made a public comment, internally top officials from both the BCCI and PCB agree that it is too far-fetched right now to predict the situation in June. The ICC’s quarterly meetings take place in Dubai next week, where representatives from both boards will have a chance to conduct discussions in person.
David Richardson, the ICC’s outgoing chief executive officer, said that “no indications” have been sent from either board about the World Cup clash not taking place. “We haven’t written to the boards as yet,” Richardson told ESPNcricinfo in London, where he was present to mark the 100-day countdown to the tournament. “Our thoughts are with the people that were impacted by the incident. And we are monitoring the situation with our members including the BCCI and PCB. Certainly there are no indications any of the matches, including the Pakistan-India match, will not be played as planned at the World Cup. But as I say we will continue to monitor the situation.”
This is not the first time the fate of an India-Pakistan match at a global event has been called into question due to the fragile relations between the two neighbours. However, Richardson remained optimistic. “Sport, and cricket in particular, is perfectly placed – it has the wonderful ability to bring people together to unite communities. And hopefully cricket can be used in this fashion rather than a way of [dividing] people.”
For Steve Elworthy, the World Cup tournament director, the India-Pakistan contest will be a marquee occasion. “It is probably one of the biggest sporting events in the world,” Elworthy, the former South Africa fast bowler, said. “You think of that match and you think of the passion, the support, the audience, the [number of] people who applied for tickets.”