The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hint of two-part trip split by poll

Calcutta, Feb. 14: While the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has got the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s unconditional okay for the Revival Series, it shouldn’t surprise if the Tests and ODIs are scheduled on either side of the general elections.

Of course, one isn’t suggesting that the BCCI has struck a deal. However, according to The Telegraph’s sources, three “factors” can’t exactly be discounted.

First, while in Pakistan, the players won’t be able to tolerate the siege-like atmosphere beyond a point. Then, they can do without a lengthy (and very taxing) tour within weeks of a hugely demanding one in Australia. And, finally, the BCCI may still make a ‘gesture’ towards the home ministry, which is deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani’s fief.

Although everybody in the corridors of power is now singing in unison, it’s no secret that Advani favoured a postponement till after the elections.

Nobody will go on record, but indications are the home ministry leaks were actually aimed at sending a message to the BCCI. Essentially, that the Jagmohan Dalmiya-headed body announce a unilateral deferment without seeking a written advisory.

The BCCI didn’t play ball as doing so would have exposed it to claims possibly in excess of Rs 50 crore from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). At the same time, it dutifully maintained the government’s decision would be respected.

Now that the BCCI has got what it wanted, sources feel it won’t be a bad idea if “some regard” is shown to the views initially expressed — albeit unofficially — by the Advani-headed ministry.

However, for that to happen, the BCCI must first initiate a dialogue with Shaharyar Khan and Co. Perhaps, even the PCB won’t mind hosting Team India twice over a specified period.

In fact, security agencies across the border should be more at ease with such an arrangement.

Meanwhile, captain Sourav Ganguly has confirmed his availability. He said so during an exclusive chat before leaving for Lucknow this afternoon.

Dalmiya, for his part, declared that “nobody is going to be forced” if he doesn’t feel comfortable making the trip. “After all, we’ll be playing cricket, not fighting a war,” he pointed out.

The itinerary will be ready within a week, after Dalmiya’s return from an ICC meeting in London.

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