Cuttack: With no signs of fear in their eyes despite protests from several quarters, Pakistan's women cricketers on Monday took to their first net practice amid tight security at the Barabati Stadium here, one of the venues for the upcoming World Cup. They practised for four hours even as a small group of agitators staged a demonstration outside the fortified venue.
"Barabati stadium and its arrangements are more like in Pakistan. We are happy with the facilities provided to us by the organisers," Pakistan team manager Ayesha Ashhar said.
Coach Basit Ali echoed similar feelings and said his team will have an edge over others as it would be practising and playing in the same ground.
"We will play a positive game in the World Cup. Our players are confident," one of the coaches, referring to their opening match against Australia on February 1, said.
For security reasons, the Odisha Cricket Association (OCA) has housed them inside the stadium. Pakistan's matches had been shifted from Mumbai in the wake of protests from several quarters following the beheading of Indian soldiers along the Line of Control (LoC).
Even as the players from the neighbouring country hit the ground in dusky colour track suits, about 1500 khaki-clad security personnel guarded them. The entire stadium as well as the city has been turned into a fortress.
"We have sufficient force to ensure smooth conduct of the matches," Cuttack DCP Praveen Kumar said, adding that the group of people was taken to custody for staging a demonstration outside the stadium.
The DCP, however, said that the protestors belonging to Utkal Bharat were released on personal release bond later. The agitators raising slogans "Pakistan players go back" marched towards the stadium, but they were soon taken into custody by the police.
Similarly, the Bajrang Dal, which was at the forefront of protests and observed Cuttack bandh last week, has decided to hold a mass congregation of its activists here on February 1, sources said. A source in the outfit informed that preparations are on at the state-level for the protest that is expected to see around 20000 activists participating.
Sources in OCA, which is hosting the Group B matches of the ICC Women's World Cup, said visiting Pakistani players will play a friendly match against Odisha Women Cricket Team.
"We are excited to face the Pakistani team. They have many good players. Our girls will learn a lot from this exercise," said Odisha Women's Cricket Team captain Madhumita Behera.