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Pakistan cancel pre-World Cup Dubai trip due to visas delay

 Pakistan cancel pre-World Cup Dubai trip due to visas delay

Pakistan's plans for a pre-World Cup team-bonding trip to Dubai have been cancelled as the team was still awaiting visas to travel to India as on Friday.

The Pakistan squad was due to fly to the UAE early next week and stay for a couple of days before flying to Hyderabad, ahead of their first warm-up game against New Zealand on September 29. Instead, Pakistan now plan to fly out of Lahore to Dubai early next Wednesday and fly to Hyderabad from there. Although one official said the situation was "alarming", there does appear to be general confidence that the visas will arrive in time for Pakistan to travel. The application for visas is understood to have been made over a week ago.

As of now, ESPNcricinfo understands, Pakistan are the only one - of nine sides traveling to India for the World Cup - still awaiting visas. The delay does highlight the complex and tense political backdrop against which the team is traveling to India. Travel between the two countries for citizens on either side is extremely limited because obtaining visas is an arduous and often fruitless process.

Crossing the border for cricket has also become a rarity. Neither team has travelled to the other's country for a bilateral series since Pakistan's trip to India for a white-ball series in 2012-13. That trip itself was an outlier, amid a steady, often sharp, deterioration in relationships between the two countries since the Mumbai attacks in November 2008. Pakistan have toured India once in the last ten years, but that was for the T20 World Cup in March 2016.

Their participation in this ODI World Cup has already been the subject of horse-trading involving the recent Asia Cup. Pakistan were the official hosts of that event but only four matches were held in their country, with India's team not given clearance to travel to Pakistan. As a result, the majority of the tournament was played in Sri Lanka in a hybrid model conceived by then PCB chief Najam Sethi.

At one stage in negotiations earlier this year, the PCB floated the idea of a similar hybrid model for the World Cup whereby Pakistan would play their games outside of India, possibly in Bangladesh. That idea, which also raised the question of whether India would travel to Pakistan for the Champions Trophy in February 2025, was never a serious proposition and in August, the Pakistan government gave clearance to the team to travel to India.

The schedule of this tournament was also rejigged following requests from police forces in more than one city - Ahmedabad and Kolkata, primarily - since match dates were clashing with those of important religious festivals. A total of nine matches were moved around as a result.

Pakistan's first warm-up game, against New Zealand next Friday, will be played behind closed doors in Hyderabad because police failed to provide assurances for adequate security. There are two major religious festivals around the date of that game in the city.

Only two players from Pakistan's current squad have travelled to India for cricket before - Mohammad Nawaz, who was part of Pakistan's 2016 T20 World Cup squad and Agha Salman, who was in the Lahore Lions' squad for the Champions League T20.

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