|Misbah-ul Haq,Saeed Ajmal
Calcutta: It’s not official, but it’s more or less clear that New Delhi doesn’t intend issuing visas to the Faisalabad Wolves, Pakistan’s T20 champions, for the upcoming Champions League T20 (CLT20).
So, for now, cricket won’t be used as a vehicle to help improve relations with Islamabad.
Of course, in the past, Islamabad has also resorted to cricket diplomacy. And, in more dramatic manner.
“We don’t have anything in writing as yet, but it has been conveyed to us that the visas won’t be granted,” a well-placed source in the Board of Control for Cricket in India told The Telegraph rather late on Wednesday.
The well-placed source added: “It’s understood that the decision would be formally communicated within 48 hours... The relations between India and Pakistan are much too strained at this point in time.”
Actually, there has been heightened tension right through the year.
Led by Pakistan’s Test and ODI captain Misbah-ul Haq, the Faisalabad Wolves are supposed to play in the CLT20 qualifiers, in Mohali, from September 17.
Top-notch off-spinner Saeed Ajmal also turns out for the Faisalabad Wolves.
Both Misbah and Ajmal are currently in Zimbabwe, but the tour finishes on September 14.
Assuming New Delhi doesn’t review a decision which has already been taken “in principle,” the qualifiers would be reduced to a three-team affair, with two qualifying for the tournament proper, from September 21 to October 6.
Good news, then, for the other three aspirants — the Sunrisers Hyderabad (No.4 in the last IPL), New Zealand’s Otago Volts and the Kandurata Maroons (Sri Lanka’s T20 champions).
The 26/11 attack on Mumbai led to the cancellation of the inaugural CLT20, in 2008, and in the editions since 2009, only once — last year — has a team from Pakistan participated.
Sialkot Stallions made the qualifiers, but couldn’t progress to the main action, held in South Africa for the second time.
It’s interesting that while India hosted Pakistan for a short tour featuring T20s and ODIs, between last December and this January, no cricketer from there was seen in IPL-VI, held between April-May.
In fact, not a single Pakistani passport-holder (Azhar Mahmood’s case being different) has played in the IPL after the first edition, in 2008.
That’s a sore point in the cricket fraternity there, but those who matter on our side of the border have to look at the bigger picture as well.