Oct. 22: Sachin Tendulkar should be facing Shoaib Akhtar in February on Pakistani soil with the Vajpayee government today permitting resumption of sporting contests between the two countries at all levels.
Announcing a string of measures to normalise relations with Pakistan, external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha said India is ready to play hockey, polo and any other sport with its neighbour, and that includes cricket.
“The demand of the Board of Control for Cricket in India has been fulfilled. It can now independently talk to its Pakistani counterpart to decide at what level they want to restart,” he said.
Sinha’s statement hands to the two cricket authorities the freedom to now draw up a schedule for Test and one-day matches in each other’s country.
It is Sourav Ganguly’s boys’ turn to visit Pakistan, which played a Test series in India in early 1999 — the last of the matches was staged in Calcutta which the Wasim Akram-led team won by 46 runs.
Rameez Raja, the chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board, told The Telegraph on phone that India should be touring Pakistan from the third week of February to play three Tests and at least three one-dayers. The details will be worked out.
“The (Delhi’s) announcement has come as a source of immense delight to both Pakistan Cricket Board and me personally. All along, we had been asking the BCCI to play ball and it’s great that the BCCI now has its government’s permission to do so,” he said.
BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya had been lobbying for full resumption of cricket ties for long. “It’s a great day for cricket,” he said. “This decision of the government will certainly please millions of cricket fans.”
Asked when Pakistan would be coming to India, Raja said he could not confirm off the cuff. But it would either be in 2004 or early 2005.
The International Cricket Council, too, expressed delight. “The India-Pakistan cricket rivalry is one of the great rivalries not only in cricket but also in world sport, and the resumption… is a boost for the game,” ICC president Ehsan Mani said in a statement in London.
Since early 1999 — in the wake of the Kargil conflict — the Indian government has not allowed bilateral contests, though the two teams have played in tournaments like the World Cup.