Tuesday Jun 25, 2019
BIRMINGHAM: Just outside the makeshift press conference area at Lord’s, the Pakistani duo of Shadab Khan and Haris Sohail met with an unpleasant surprise on Sunday evening.
Accompanied by the team’s media manager Raza Kitchlew, the two players were there for the ICC’s Mixed Zone – a post-match activity – that usually features players who had made the most impact in the World Cup game that particular day.
Haris and Shadab were two of the star performers for Pakistan, who had stayed alive in the World Cup by knocking South Africa out of the tournament with a 49-run win.
As the two tried to make their way into the narrow entrance, a tall and well-built steward stopped them asking for their ICC accreditation cards. The players weren’t carrying them.
Raza informed the steward that the two were members of the Pakistan cricket team and were summoned for interaction with the media at the Mixed Zone. But he refused to budge. At one point in time, the steward even physically stopped Shadab from entering the area. An official of the ICC got involved but it still took a lot of convincing before the players were allowed in.
Security has been unusually tight around this World Cup.
Even though what happened with Shadab and Haris was a rare occurrence, you could tell that the event’s organizers and security experts hired by the ICC aren’t taking anything for granted.
Though the security arrangements made to shield the World Cup from any untoward incidents look relaxed by Pakistani standards, you can tell that things are different this time.
In the past, you could cover cricket in England in a relaxed atmosphere. There certainly used to be a security protocol even then but it used to be a lot more subtle.
In the lead up to Pakistan’s World Cup game against South Africa on Sunday, even accredited journalists weren’t allowed to move freely at Lord’s. Their movement was restricted and they were escorted by officials or volunteers whenever they moved from the press box towards the field to watch the teams’ practice sessions.
Earlier in Manchester, the local police carried out one of its biggest operations to make sure that the big game featuring Pakistan and India on June 16 would take place smoothly.
Armed police and vehicle barriers were deployed with the local media declaring that the authorities had employed “the biggest force Manchester has ever seen for a cricket match.”
Weeks before the start of the World Cup, the authorities had announced that security measures were in place for a World Cup in England and Wales rated a “moderate” security risk -- the second lowest on the scale of risk.