| General Zia
Calcutta: The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s refusal to allow strictly bilateral cricket exchanges isn’t the only reason why the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has opted out of the Asia Cup, scheduled for August 10-28 in Sri Lanka.
Initially, of course, the tournament was to be hosted by Pakistan. Ironically, the PCB decision came after New Delhi cleared the Board of Control for Cricket In India’s (BCCI’s) Asia Cup-file.
“Look, that’s been the top — but not the sole — consideration. There have been a series of events,” PCB chief Lt General Tauqir Zia told The Telegraph, Wednesday evening.
In fact, India’s participation in the on-going tri-series in Bangladesh, too, has somewhat irked the PCB.
“Even though India should have visited us after the World Cup, the BCCI made the Bangladesh commitment well over a year ago… How do you expect us to react' What do I tell people in Pakistan'” asked a distinctly peeved General Zia, when contacted in Rawalpindi.
He continued: “It was on the understanding that India would play Pakistan in a Test series, even if that be on neutral territory, that we agreed to forego our chance of hosting the tournament. But, when even that isn’t materialising, why should Pakistan play at all' After all, it’s known that India’s no to a bilateral series is hurting the PCB.”
It’s not insignificant that Pakistan supremo General Pervez Musharraf, the PCB patron, is himself “very keen” on the resumption of cricket ties.
Besides the jinxed Asia Cup —which, by the way, has seen more postponements than editions — Team India should (by now) have featured in a Test series in Pakistan. But, then, bilateral exchanges have been actively discouraged post-Kargil (mid-1999) onwards.
According to General Zia, the PCB hasn’t also taken kindly to the manner in which the Islamabad-based Zakir Hussain Syed was treated when he sought to visit Calcutta for an Asian Cricket Council (ACC) meeting last December.
Syed, the ACC-appointed Development Manager for the continent, couldn’t make the trip as the Indian High Commission made it known he wouldn’t exactly be welcome.
General Zia added Pakistan would even go unrepresented in the U-17 Asia Cup, slated to be hosted by India at the year-end.
“There was talk of staging an Asian schools’ meet in Mumbai around this time but, from what I understand, the idea was shelved as our boys wouldn’t have got visas… It wasn’t a BCCI event, but such things leave a very bad taste,” he insisted.
With the PCB ‘retaliating’ in the fashion it has, the ACC’s very existence is now at stake. Actually, General Zia bluntly remarked “it has no future.” It can’t, unless India and Pakistan join hands.
Incidentally, General Zia and BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya should interact with each other in Dubai (during an Asian Cricket Foundation session), on May 3, and a “compromise” isn’t an impossibility.
For now, however, General Zia is firm on not backtracking. He has compulsions. Dalmiya’s hands, too, are tied.