The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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One-dayers first, to dodge polls

Lahore, Feb. 21: With the Board of Control for Cricket in India citing “compelling political reasons”, the Pakistan Cricket Board agreed to start Team India’s first full tour in over 14 years with the five ODIs. The three Tests will follow.

The PCB, though, insisted that BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya go public with the political bit, instead of announcing that cricket considerations influenced this rather dramatic change. The PCB, it may be recalled, had initially opposed beginning with the ODIs as it feared a “dilution” of interest in the Test series.

However, with the elections (to the Lok Sabha and in some states) not far away, the BCCI came under pressure to “ensure” that the tour — specifically the ODIs — didn’t affect either the campaigning or even the elections proper, if held by April 17. Clearly, politicians are worried by the drawing power of ODIs.

The BCCI, one understands, conveyed this to the PCB yesterday and an agreement was reached this afternoon, some hours before the itinerary was simultaneously released by Dalmiya (in Calcutta) and PCB chief executive Rameez Raja (at the Gaddafi).

Dalmiya, in fact, specifically said: “Keeping in mind the importance of elections, the ODIs are going to be completed first.… Every politician, irrespective of affiliation, is interested in the game.… As the elections get near, the interference from cricket should be minimum.”

Sourav Ganguly and Co. will arrive here on March 10 — by a chartered flight as there is no regular service that day — and stay till April 18, a day after the Test series ends in Rawalpindi. The tour opener on March 11, at the Gaddafi, is possibly going to be versus Pakistan A.

Significantly, in a first for Indian sport, three IPS officers will accompany the team as security coordinators. They are going to be handpicked by the Union home ministry.

As was reported by The Telegraph today, the PCB didn’t offer Karachi and Peshawar as Test venues in discussions with the BCCI. Both centres, though, will host ODIs. Following an Indian request, the PCB changed the Karachi game to a day affair. The ODI in Peshawar, too, is going to be a day game.

Dalmiya, by the way, will be present at the National Stadium in Karachi when the ODI series gets underway on March 13. In recent times, barring Bangladesh, other countries have refused to play there (and in Peshawar).

While Rawalpindi is going to host one ODI, Lahore has got two. In any case, Rawalpindi and this charming metro are staging a Test each, with Multan getting the other. Actually, the Test series will begin in Multan, on March 28.

Somewhat predictably, Rameez had to tackle a barrage of questions on Karachi and Peshawar during his media briefing at the Gaddafi. However, having cut his teeth against some of the fastest quicks in the eighties, he didn’t duck and did an excellent job.

“The positive thing is that both venues are going to host the Indians.… For the PCB, it’s a good beginning and a platform will be ready when other teams come.… People have a perception about security being a problem.… That’s going to gradually go away,” he pointed out.

Rameez, though, indicated the Revival Series wouldn’t have taken off had India refused to play at all in Karachi and Peshawar. “We just couldn’t have accepted that,” is how he put it.

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