LAHORE: Former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar has come out with an "out of a box" idea of proposing a three-match series against India in order to raise funds for both the countries amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Over 5,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported so far in India while more than 160 people have lost their lives. In Pakistan, the situation is no better as more than 4,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported while over 60 lives have been lost.
According to Akhtar, India and Pakistan can play either a three-match ODI or a T20I series behind closed doors which can raise millions of dollars of funds to help both the countries in such desperate time. India and Pakistan have not played a bilateral series against each other since 2007 and have only been facing each other in ICC tournaments.
"I want India and Pakistan to play a series. I want it to happen without crowds, just broadcasting unit should be there and the matches should be televised, three ODIs or T20Is should be played. I cannot understand why this is a bad idea," Akhtar said in a video posted on his YouTube channel.
"Players can play after undergoing testing, if the series happens, just think how many people will watch the matches on television, think about the funds the series can generate. For the first time, there will be no loser, there is everything to gain, imagine Indian team winning the match, and the funds going to Pakistan as well and vis-a-vis," the Rawalpindi Express said.
Akhtar said he is aware of the existing relationship between the two Asian neighbours. However, he said now is the time for both the countries to think above the petty fights and differences, think above Hindu and Muslims and only think about saving human lives and coming out of this difficult situation.
"I am just thinking out of the box, this can be a breakthrough moment for both India and Pakistan, these two countries can help in generating a great amount of funds. Both sides will play for humanity. These matches can become the most viewed matches in the history of cricket," Akhtar said.
The former Pakistan speedster also condemned the backlash which Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh had to face for supporting Shahid Afridi's foundation. "I saw what happened with Yuvraj and Harbhajan as they advocated for Shahid Afridi Foundation. I just could not understand this. We as people need to come forward and think above political difference," Akhtar said.
However, former Indian captain Kapil Dev slammed Akhtar's idea saying "India doesn't need the money" and it is not worth risking lives for a cricket match.
Dev said the proposal is not feasible. "He is entitled to his opinion but we don't need to raise the money. We have enough. For us, what is important right now is that how our authorities work together to deal with this crisis. I am still seeing a lot of blame game on television from the politicians and that needs to stop," Dev told PTI.
"Anyway, the BCCI has donated a hefty amount (Rs 51 crore) for the cause and is in a position to donate much more if the need arises. It doesn't need to raise funds. The situation is unlikely to get normal anytime soon and organising a cricket game means putting our cricketers at risk which we don't need to," said the World Cup-winning former captain.
Dev said that cricket should not even matter for at least the next six months. "It is just not worth the risk. And how much money can you make from three games? In my view, you can't even think of cricket for the next five to six months," he said.
Dev said that the focus, at the moment, should only be on saving lives and taking care of the poor who are struggling to make ends meet in a lockdown situation. "Cricket will resume when things get normal. The game can't be bigger than the country. The pressing issue is to look after the poor, the hospital workers, the police and all other people who are on the frontline of this war," said the 61-year-old.
As an Indian, Dev feels proud that his country is in a position help other nations including the United States. "Helping others is in our culture and I feel proud about that.We should not seek credit after helping others. We should strive to become a nation which gives more and more rather than taking from others," he said referring to India agreeing to supply hydroxychloroquine to US.
(With inputs from IANS and PTI)