The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Revival, or burial, series

Calcutta, Feb.11: After lobbying in the top-most echelons to revive bilateral exchanges, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) may have to defer the tour of Pakistan — not owing to a change of heart, but because New Delhi is likely to issue an advisory against a trip in the lead-up to the general elections.

While president Jagmohan Dalmiya declined to comment on that possibility, The Telegraph’s sources made two points: That the BCCI has no locus standi to guarantee an incident-free tour and, secondly, it will call for any advisory (whatever the content) to be made public.

Apparently, deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, who holds the home portfolio, has initiated moves to put the Revival Series on hold.

Nothing has been even unofficially conveyed (through the sports ministry) to the BCCI as yet, but that could be done once the recce-party is back from Pakistan.

The BCCI, it may be recalled, has sent a three-member delegation. It includes IGP Yashovardhan Azad, a home ministry nominee. The delegation left on Monday and is going to be back on February 16.

Incidentally, one of the members, BCCI joint-secretary Prof. Ratnakar Shetty, today expressed “satisfaction” with the arrangements being put in place.

However, as Prof. Shetty’s isn’t the last word on security, his remark (to a news agency in Islamabad) is unlikely to deter New Delhi.

Of course, it will be awkward to ignore the personal (safety) guarantee issued by President Pervez Musharraf. As is the tradition there, the head of state is also the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) patron.

According to sources, Advani has “consistently” been opposed to reviving one-on-one ties. Indeed, it’s Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who recently personally okayed the resumption of bilateral cricket.

That clearance, a first after Kargil, came on October 22 last, when foreign minister Yashwant Sinha announced a package.

Now, of course, Advani appears to see things much more differently. If the tour is eventually put off, though, an early revival is unlikely.

Even if day-night ODIs can be staged in summer, Test cricket is out. Moreover, nothing is going to be possible during the monsoon. Then, end August onwards, both countries have other commitments.

The dates haven’t been announced, but there’s speculation that the election process will be completed between mid-April and early May.

Going by the tentative understanding, Team India is scheduled to be in Pakistan for around six weeks from early March.

Advani, one gathers, is apprehensive that any incident — perhaps, something similar to Krishnamachari Srikkanth being manhandled by a fanatical spectator, as in late 1989 — may become an issue and allow the opposition to hurl bouncers.

Worse, elements with dubious credentials could use that as a fuel to fan communal passions.

“It’s not proper to air views on hypothetical issues, but it’s going to be very, very disappointing if the trip has to be postponed…. What will our reaction be' Well, we must cross the bridge on getting there,” is how PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan put it, when contacted in Lahore.

Having been a diplomat, he probably couldn’t have reacted differently.

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