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Pak’s gesture in Dubai
- Asia Cup pushed back to early 2004

Calcutta, May 3: The flood of gestures between New Delhi and Islamabad found an echo in Dubai, where the Asian Cricket Foundation (ACF) met today, with Jagmohan Dalmiya in the chair. The ACF complements the two-decade-old Asian Cricket Council (ACC).

In keeping with the goodwill being exhibited by the governments of India and Pakistan towards each other, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) took back its decision to boycott the Asia Cup once Dalmiya, who heads the Board of Control for Cricket in India, “assured” delegates he was “very hopeful” of New Delhi okaying resumption of bilateral ties.

It’s significant, of course, that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has left the one-to-one bit to “khel ke logon ke upar.”

In fact, he went public with this in the Rajya Sabha yesterday, after Rajiv Shukla sought a clarification.

Even if permission does come through pretty soon — as quite a few expect — it’s unlikely that India and Pakistan will be able to schedule even a short series this year. The renewal, then, may have to wait till early 2004, possibly March-April. Only, an element of risk will be there: What if relations deteriorate one more time'

Bilateral exchanges haven’t taken place for over four years, not since Pakistan’s visit to India for three Tests in January-February, 1999.

“For obvious reasons, I couldn’t go into specifics. At the same time, the gentleman that he is, (Lt) General Tauqir Zia (the PCB chairman) didn’t ask for details... Reflecting the current mood, he announced that Pakistan would play in the Asia Cup,” Dalmiya told The Telegraph, when contacted on his cellphone.

For good measure, he added: “Actually, I’m happy with the meeting... I think everybody realised this is a crucial time in Indo-Pak ties and the stand, therefore, was constructive.”

Incidentally, before leaving for Dubai, Dalmiya formally wrote to Vajpayee, requesting an “update” on one-to-one exchanges, an issue which threatened to split the ACC besides severely impacting on intra-International Cricket Council alignments.

General Zia wasn’t available for comment but, obviously, recent developments shaped his position during the six-hour session. Not too long ago, after all, he was firm about not playing in the Asia Cup till India agreed to resume bilateral ties.

The Asia Cup, however, won’t be held in August — as was planned — owing to Pakistan’s inability to shift the home series versus Bangladesh. According to ACC chief executive Syed Ashraful Huq, it will now be held next April, when all four Test-playing nations of the region will be “free.”

“There’s a genuine problem (because of Pakistan’s calendar and Ramzaan) and, so, we can’t have it between August 9-28,” he explained, speaking exclusively.

Among other decisions, the ACF earmarked a handsome $4.16 million for development in 2003-04. Also, the upcoming U-19 meet in Singapore will be moved out if SARS continued to play havoc. If required, the (July) event will be relocated to Pakistan.

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