The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Minimum exposure’ are the key words

Calcutta: Given the mood within the Union home ministry and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), it will be surprising if IGP Yashovardhan Azad doesn’t recommend “minimum exposure” for Team India in Karachi and Peshawar.

In fact, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan has already acknowledged a BCCI request that the two centres not be allotted Test matches. He said as much in an interaction with a news agency on Tuesday evening. Obviously, the BCCI must have acted after an informal feedback — in all probability from Azad himself.

Efforts to contact the IGP proved futile, as he refused to take any calls.

Azad, who heads the elite Security Division of the home ministry and has just returned from Pakistan after an eight-day trip as part of a BCCI delegation, may cite multiple reasons if he does specifically call for “minimum exposure”.

Although the MQM has a seat in the ruling coalition in Islamabad and violence has declined in Karachi, the port city remains a stronghold of the militant Jaish-e-Jhangvi, which has often been the cause of Shia-Sunni clashes there. Moreover, nobody has forgotten the murderous blast, almost two years ago, which killed a number of Frenchmen and forced the New Zealand cricketers to take the first flight back home.

As for Peshawar, sources insisted that its proximity to Afghanistan has made Azad very uncomfortable. Additionally, the border town has witnessed vehement demonstrations, both against President Prevez Musharraf and the US.

And, so, while Azad is expected to suggest that Karachi can — at best — host an ODI, he may not stick his neck out on Peshawar. Of course, he could still give Peshawar “benefit of the doubt” and bracket it with Karachi.

Azad’s report, one understands, is going to be handed over to the BCCI when President Jagmohan Dalmiya returns from London. Being a home ministry man, however, it’s possible that the brass will first be briefed before the report is formally sent to the BCCI.

Meanwhile, though the Indian security agencies don’t have a problem with Team India possibly making two visits — one for the three Tests and, then, for the five ODIs — PCB chief executive Rameez Raja informed that such an arrangement wouldn’t be feasible.

Contacted in Lahore , Rameez maintained: “That bit has been in the air, but everything should be finished at one go… After all, we simply can’t host anything — not even day-night ODIs — after April. It becomes unbearably hot…”

The itinerary is unlikely to be finalised before the end of this week.

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