Soft Diplomacy With Indo-Pak Cricket Series?

Boards await govt clearance after PCB chief announces December matches in Abu Dhabi

Published: 11th May 2015 05:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th May 2015 07:32 AM   |  A+A-

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CHENNAI /NEW DELHI: Pakistan Cricket Board chief Shahryar Khan’s brisk India trip has rekindled hopes of a series between the arch-rivals. After meeting BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya in Kolkata on Sunday, Khan announced India and Pakistan will play 10 matches in Abu Dhabi in December.

While Pakistan have been playing ‘home’ matches in UAE since an armed attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009, bilateral ties after the 2008 Mumbai terror strikes have been limited to three ODIs in India in 2012.

The Abu Dhabi series Khan referred to was conceived after N Srinivasan became ICC chief in 2014. Consent of boards notwithstanding, it needs government clearance. Till Sunday, there was no news of green light, although ministry sources didn’t rule out another round of cricket diplomacy.

“Foreign Secretary Jaishankar visited SAARC countries recently and cricket could be part of soft diplomacy on part of Narendra Modi to break the ice,” said a Ministry of Home Affairs source. Sports Ministry sources said because the BCCI is an autonomous body, it doesn’t need prior permission and nor has it sought one.

“We will resume the India-Pakistan series in UAE. The series will start in December and comprise three Tests, five ODIs and two T20s. Preparations are on in full swing. We’ve to overcome the final hurdle,” said Khan. India hosted the last Test series between the teams in 2007 after visiting Pakistan a year earlier.

Addressing the media with Khan at his residence, Dalmiya said, “We’re hopeful of reviving the series. A few things need to be sorted out and without the support of ministry and government we can’t go forward.”

People close to developments felt Khan’s meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi on Monday on his way home might help matters. Khan reached Kolkata on Saturday from Dhaka, where Pakistan won a Test series.

Zimbabwe have agreed to be the first country to tour Pakistan after 2009, but no other team is scheduled to make the trip.

A BCCI media release signed by secretary Anurag Thakur said, “Regarding resumption of bilateral cricket, it was felt it is desirable to recommence such cricket contact. After discussions, since there are certain matters that need to be addressed and considered, it was decided to take appropriate steps. The boards will be in regular touch and review the situation. Both are hopeful positive results will emerge.”

Optimistic that Khan’s meeting with Jaitley will make headway, the BCCI is yet to finalise commercial terms. “Hope the matter receives special consideration at the ministry. Once that’s done, financial details can be worked out. The ball is in the ministry’s court,” said a BCCI official.  (With inputs  from Yatish Yadav)

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