| Members of the U-19 Indian cricket team at Wagah after winning the Asian meet in 2003. (PTI)
Calcutta, Jan. 16: The Indian cricket team’s first full-fledged tour of Pakistan in almost 15 years, tentatively slated for a March 5 start, may begin with a rich-in-symbolism crossing over at the Wagah border and driving to Lahore.
“That’s certainly an option…. However, we will need our own intelligence agencies’ clearance before a proposal is placed before India,” Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief executive Rameez Raja told The Telegraph this afternoon.
The other options, of course, are landing in Karachi or Lahore. Incidentally, a shade over two months ago, India’s A.T. Rayudu-led U-19 team returned home via Wagah after winning the Asian Championship.
That became a huge media event. It’s going to be infinitely bigger if Sourav Ganguly actually does an Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Rameez, for his part, denied a report emanating from Islamabad that the Indians will land in Karachi, generally a volatile metro, and that the tour-opener plus the first of three Tests is going to be hosted by the National Stadium there.
“The itinerary hasn’t been finalised and, so, there’s no question of our forwarding anything to India. Equally, it’s incorrect to say the first Test will be in Karachi. Obviously, being a major centre, matches are going to be held in that city. At the moment, I can’t say anything beyond that,” Rameez, a former captain, pointed out.
He confirmed that the five ODIs will be held after the Tests: “The Indians did want it the other way, but we’ve explained why the Tests should be completed first....” Basically, to attract a bigger audience.
Significantly, Sourav, who was keen that the ODIs be finished before the Tests, reacted sportingly.
“It will be OK with us even if the itinerary is structured that way,” the captain said exclusively, when contacted in Brisbane.
The players, though, are unlikely to be too enthused with the duration (40-45 days) of the tour. Privately, they have been favouring a “short trip.”
According to Rameez, the itinerary is going to be ready “within a week.” Among other things, the PCB is awaiting a “feedback” from intelligence agencies. “It’s a very sensitive tour and, clearly, all aspects are being looked into thoroughly. In any case, we have time on our side,” he added.
Asked whether the interior ministry plans to specifically assign a senior police officer to the Indians from the time they arrive till their departure, Rameez answered: “Look, the PCB will be comfortable with whatever is decided (by officials in Islamabad) … There could be one officer right through the tour, or one officer at each of the staging centres…”
New Delhi, it may be recalled, deputed Yashovardhan Azad (an Intelligence Bureau IG) with Wasim Akram’s team during the early 1999 tour of India. Yashovardhan is World Cupper MP Kirti Azad’s elder brother and was hand-picked by the then special secretary (home), Nikhil Kumar.
Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Jagmohan Dalmiya is likely to personally interact with ministry of external affairs officials once the itinerary is received.
Apparently, the venues will be okayed only after New Delhi has given its clearance. Highly unusual but, given the ramifications, the BCCI isn’t keen on acting without “guidance” from the powers-that-be.
Sensible play that.