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Pakistan invite India for tour in February

Lahore: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) president, Tauqir Zia, said Monday he was hopeful that Indo-Pak ties will resume with a series in Pakistan in February.

“We are planning to host India in February 2004 and have approached the ICC in this regard,” Zia said after returning from Dubai, where he attended a meeting of the Asian Cricket Foundation (ACF).

“The Indian Board is sincere in resuming cricketing ties and more than willing to send its team to Pakistan, but it needs government clearance,” the PCB chief said.

Zia, however, made it clear that India must visit Pakistan first if cricketing ties between the countries are to resume.

“It is our official stance on resuming cricket relations between the two countries and we expect that our stance will be honoured by our Indian counterparts,” Zia said.

Bilateral relations between the neighbouring countries are suspended for more than three years and the flexibility shown by the Indian government recently to revive relations with Pakistan has raised a ray of hope that cricket ties will resume.

Zia said Pakistan have already sent an altered programme to the Indian Board, inviting a team to Pakistan, instead of a tour of India by the Pakistan team.

The PCB chief added Pakistan will not participate in the Asia Cup — originally scheduled for August this year but now pushed to April — if India did not tour Pakistan in February.

“We will not participate in the Asia Cup if India does not come here next year, unless of course our government decides otherwise,” Zia said.

“If they accept the deadlock would break and by that way cricket relations will return to normalcy.”

He informed the PCB will request the ICC to make the necessary changes in its international calendar to accommodate India’s tour to Pakistan and reschedule his own country’s trip to India from next year to 2005.

“Indian people are keen to see the sides playing and now it depends on the Indian Board how it responds to our proposal.” The PCB chief said he hopes the situation will become clear by June.

Zia said India’s refusal to come to Pakistan had not only cost the PCB close to $30 million in revenues but also affected the “extremely cordial relations” that the two Boards enjoyed earlier.

“We (PCB and BCCI) had stood together in the ICC on many issues. It is not our intention to challenge the ICC or anyone, but together we had very good strength to put our point across. That goodwill is being lost because of India’s refusal to come here.”

Zia added Pakistan will not press the ICC to make India pay damages for not honouring earlier commitments.

“Those things are history. We are looking forward and are very hopeful that ties will resume.

“I am very optimistic and hopeful that the two countries will start playing each other soon.

“The fact that there has been progress on the diplomatic front gives me the hope.

“Cricket cannot be a hindrance in the good relations between India and Pakistan. In fact, it can act as a bridge,” Zia said.

“Pakistan is always ideal for sporting ties and we are ready to host Bangladesh and South Africa in the coming months. I do not see any problem in these areas,” he added.

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