The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal picks out people of Pak for applause

April 16: Atal Bihari Vajpayee congratulated Sourav Ganguly and his boys for India’s first series win in Pakistan, but the Prime Minister did not forget to praise the host country’s spectators and players for their warmth and sportsmanship.

“The Indian team deserves all the credit for their spectacular display in all departments of the game which enabled them to win both the one-day as well as the Test series. It is a victory of teamwork, determination and a will to win,” Vajpayee said in a message to captain Ganguly and his teammates. He also praised Rahul Dravid for his double century.

Vajpayee took the theme to Ahmedabad in the evening, where he asked a campaign meeting: “Do you know whom I am going to congratulate' It is the people of Pakistan who have shown exemplary behaviour during the cricket matches.”

“It is tough to digest defeat. But in a game there can be victory or loss. There is no question of feeling bad. It is part of sportsman spirit. We have much to learn from their behaviour, too,” he said.

Vajpayee, who took a political risk by insisting on the tour despite reservations among the home ministry and a section of the BJP, referred to some of the misgivings, too.

He said “some persons” had doubted the outcome of the cricket tour and had asked what would happen “if we lose the match' We asked in return what will happen if we win. Victory was fine with them. But victory and loss is part of the game and we must take it in stride”.

Vajpayee, who is not a cricket enthusiast, closely followed the India-Pakistan series whenever he was in a position to do so.

When the Indian team called on the Prime Minister en route to Lahore, Vajpayee had advised Ganguly and his boys to win not just matches but also the hearts of the people of Pakistan. This was reported at great length in all Pakistani newspapers.

This is also why he congratulated the people of Pakistan, especially the spectators and the players, for their “unique warmth and sportsmanship” which made the tour “truly historic and memorable”. He praised the Indian and Pakistani organisers for the “flawless manner” in which the matches were staged.

With the Election Commission asking political parties not to drag cricket into electioneering after India won the one-day series, the BJP’s reaction to the victory today was circumspect. In fact, there has not been any SMS claiming credit for the win.

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