Mohali: A week back, the Faisalabad Wolves cricketers had resigned themselves to not being a part of the Champions League Twenty20 2013 qualifying competition, after initially being denied visas by Indian authorities to travel to Mohali. It needed the intervention of Dr Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, to facilitate the team's participation, but an embarrassment of a different nature cropped up when they landed in Chandigarh on Sunday (September 15).
Indian visas to Pakistani citizens, and vice-versa, are generally issued on city-specific basis. The Faisalabad team, winners of Pakistan's domestic Twenty20 tournament, had only been issued visas to Mohali, where the PCA Stadium, which will host the matches, is located, but not to Chandigarh, where the team's hotel is.
Consequently, despite efforts from local authorities, the team was left with no option but to make the short drive on Sunday evening from Chandigarh to Mohali, where it was housed at the clubhouse within the stadium premises. Officials from the Faisalabad outfit as well as those in India involved with the Champions League are hopeful of a negotiated settlement sometime on Monday so that the Wolves return to their hotel in Chandigarh.
The unexpected development didn't prevent the Faisalabad boys from enjoying themselves. A small group tried its hand at snooker before a hastily arranged practice session, and Raza Rashid, the manager, said the team was in good spirits. "We are here to play cricket, that is all that matters," said Rashid. "Everyone is looking forward to the start of the competition, the morale within the camp is excellent." (Read: Misbah elated)
Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan's Test and One-Day International captain, will lead Faisalabad. "Misbah, Saeed Ajmal and Ehsan Adil will join the team later in the evening," confirmed Rashid. The three will reach Chandigarh from Delhi after having made the haul from Harare, where Pakistan were beaten in the second Test by Zimbabwe on Saturday.
Otago Volts, Faisalabad's first opponents in the four-team qualifying competition, had a practice session in the morning, but face an anxious wait over the availability of Ryan ten Doeschate, the Dutchman who is a part of their 15 but isn't in India yet.
"We always knew that if Essex (for whom ten Doeschate is playing in the second division of the English county championship) were in with a chance of promotion, Ryan would be a doubtful starter," said Andy McLean, the Otago manager. "But we are in touch with Essex, and they have assured us that if Ravi Bopara is available to play for them after completing his international engagements with England, they will be happy to release Ryan immediately."
England play Australia in the final ODI on Monday, and McLean said if Bopara committed to returning to Essex straightaway, the county would release ten Doeschate on Tuesday. "He will then be available for Wednesday's qualifying match," said McLean. "It might appear as if he is here for just two league games, but if we qualify for the main draw as we intend to, Ryan will have a huge role to play in that phase. The fact that we want him to join us even after the qualifying competition has started shows just how much we value him as a player."