The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Despite change, continuity on the cards
Priyanka Vadra and Rahul Gandhi root for Team India during the first one-day International against Pakistan, in Karachi, two months ago

Calcutta, May 13: Okaying the revival of bilateral cricket with Pakistan was a carefully-crafted move by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but the dramatic change of guard in New Delhi shouldn’t derail whatever has been set in motion.

Even though nobody from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chose to comment on record, sources on both sides of the border told The Telegraph they were “very confident” that one-to-one engagements wouldn’t again head for the cold storage.

Their optimism stems from (a) the Congress’ endorsement of the recent tour by Team India; (b) the decision by Rahul Gandhi and the Vadras — Priyanka and Robert — to watch the opening ODI, in Karachi exactly two months ago, in person and (c) Priyanka’s warmth-oozing ‘thank-you’, in writing, to PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan. The letter was couriered after the ODIs.

Actually, Priyanka was a mega-hit at the National Stadium and arguably received as many cheers as Sourav Ganguly’s side. India, it may be recalled, won in a close finish, signalling the start of a hugely successful tour.

Rahul and the Vadras, incidentally, were accorded state guest status by Islamabad. All are Sachin Tendulkar fans.

Given that every action of the Family is scrutinised, it’s highly unlikely that Priyanka — easily the Congress’ most glamorous campaigner in the just-ended elections — didn’t keep her mother (Ms Sonia Gandhi) informed about her ‘thank-you’ letter.

And, so, it’s with good reason that sources talked at some length about the ‘thank-you’.

For the record, Priyanka’s single-page letter included: “… Both teams were great ambassadors of goodwill and we hope ‘Cricket Diplomacy’ continues to strengthen the bonds of friendship established between the two countries during these matches.

“I hope you will soon give us the opportunity to welcome you and the Pakistan cricket team to our country, so that the people of India can also express their heartfelt warmth and friendship they feel for their brothers and sisters in Pakistan…”

The decision-makers in the new government — headed by the Congress — won’t only be influenced by Priyanka when an Indo-Pak file (containing a request from the BCCI) lands on their table, but everything does point to yet another bilateral series not many months from now.

The change in guard notwithstanding.

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