ISLAMABAD - The head of Pakistan's blind cricketers demanded on Saturday that the sports's World Cup be shifted from England after the team was denied visas to play two series there.
The Pakistani cricket team for the visually impaired, the reigning world champions, were due to tour England from August 9-18 for three ODIs and a Twenty20 game as part of preparations for the World Cup 2011 - also scheduled for England.
But the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) denied the team visas last week because it was not convinced the players would return to Pakistan once the tour was over.
Pakistan's Blind Cricket Council Chairman Syed Sultan Shah said he has complained to the India-based World Blind Cricket Council (WBCC) about the visa refusal and demanded the World Cup be re-located.
"We are demanding that the World Cup be shifted from England because Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka will also face the same problem... why stage a mega event in a country who will not give us visas," Shah told AFP.
He said it was ridiculous that the UK authorities said they were concerned players would not return to Pakistan and that they did not have sufficient income.
"It is insulting, how can a blind man run away when he can't go anywhere without help?" he added.
Pakistan is one of the top nations in the ten-member WBCC, having finished runners-up in the inaugural World Cup in 1998 and winning the next two editions, 2002 in Chennai, India and 2006 in Islamabad.
Shah was the first Pakistani blind cricket team captain.
"Most of our players are well-off with government jobs and the Pakistan Cricket Board was sponsoring the tour so where does the question of income arise?" he said.
The UKBA maintained it was justified in refusing the team visas.
"We will make no apology for maintaining tough border controls created to prevent abuse of the immigration system," it said.
"If applications don't contain the necessary evidence and we are not satisfied individuals will return at the end of their visit their visas will be refused."
Said Shah: "This tour would have given us an opportunity to prepare for the World Cup but now I am worried we won't be able to defend our title in the future." - Sapa-AFP