New Delhi : The Indian cricket board Monday invited Pakistan to play three One-dayers and two Twenty20 Internationals in December-January, a move that would see the arch-rivals clashing in a bilateral series after a five-year gap.
The matches will be played in between England’s November-January series in India when the tourists return home for 15 days for the Christmas break, according to an agreement between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Briefing the media after the Board’s working committee meeting here Monday, BCCI spokesman Rajiv Shukla said New Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai are the venues for the ODIs and Bangalore and Ahmedabad will host the T20 matches.
“PCB have repeatedly asked us for the resumption of ties and we have agreed to it. The public wants to see the the two countries playing against each other,” Shukla told reporters here.
The foreign secretaries of the two countries had discussed the revival of cricketing ties at their meeting here earlier this month.
Asked about the Indian government’s approval of the Pakistan tour, Shukla said he had already spoken to the concerned ministry officials on the matter.
“I have already spoken to Home Minister P. Chidambaram and he has no objections, and neither does the ministry of external affairs. Even after the Kargil War, and the 1965 and 1971 wars, Pakistani cricket teams toured India,” he said reacting to opposition from some political parties including the Shiv Sena, who said Pakistan should not be allowed to play India as long as the Mumbai terror attack perpetrators were not brought to justice.
The series will be played when England go back home for the Christmas break after playing four Tests and two T20 matches in November-December and before they return for the five-match one-day series in January.
The two neighbouring countries last played in 2007-08 when Pakistan toured India. India were to play in Pakistan in 2009 but the tour was cancelled in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack in 2008. No international team has toured Pakistan after the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009.
Reacting to the BCCI’s announcement, PCB chief Zaka Ashraf told the Pakistani media that it was a welcome step.
“I am glad this has come through,” Ashraf said.
“Negotiations were on for quite some time and both the boards worked hard to make it happen.
“I had a fruitful chat with BCCI president N. Srinivasan and as we both come from a corporate background, we clearly understand the commercial aspects of an Indo-Pak series,” he said.
Ashraf said the first step towards resuming the ties was inviting Pakistan T20 Champions Sialkot Stallions for the Champions League.
“Stallions were invited. That was the first step. Now this is a further development,” said the PCB chief.
Talking about the money matters, Shukla made it clear that the host board BCCI won’t be sharing the series’ revenue with PCB.
The announcement drew contrasting reactions from the cricket fraternity of India and Pakistan. While Pakistan’s Zaheer Abbas and Aamir Sohail expressed happiness at the news, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar questioned the timing of the series.
“My first reaction is that the free time players would have had between the England series, it is not going to be there anymore,” Gavaskar told NDTV.
“They are playing a strong side like England in November-December and now they are not going to get a breather between the Test and one-day matches. Players need the time to look after their injuries and get better,” he added.