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Since 1st March, 1999
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PCB: England return good for subcontinent
- Boards express desire to defeat terrorism

Karachi: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) strongly favours England’s return to India to play the two-match series, believing it “would give out positive signals for cricket in the subcontinent”.

[Comments were made some hours before the ECB announced that the England team would be returning for the Test series.]

PCB chief operating officer Saleem Altaf feels the move would make it easy for the Indians to take a positive decision on playing Pakistan next year.

“If England return despite the carnage caused by the Mumbai attacks, it would send positive signals for cricket in the subcontinent. We feel it will also go a long way in India playing us,” he said.

After the Mumbai attacks that killed over 180 people, the England team returned home without playing the last two one-dayers of the series against India. But they are now close to confirming their return for two Tests.

Altaf said he was confident of a lot of positive happening if England returned to India.

“I fully support the statement of England captain Kevin Pietersen that we can’t let cowards run cricket. These terrorists who caused so much carnage in Mumbai should be given a clear message that people in the region want to live a normal life,” he said.

But former Pakistan captain Imran Khan is against England returning to India.

“I would advise them to be very cautious in taking a decision and I think if a player decides not to go to India, others will follow him,” the former Pakistan captain was quoted as saying by a London-based newspaper.

Imran said since the terrorists had specifically targeted foreign tourists in the Mumbai attacks, England players need to be very careful if they return to India.

The report also quoted former England captain Graham Gooch as saying English players needed to be careful as the terrorists had specifically picked out people with British and US passports. Altaf, talking to reporters on the issue, added that India were one of the most influential forces in international cricket now and if they hosted England and then toured Pakistan, it would clear the security doubts surrounding cricket in the subcontinent. India should lead from the front now.

“So far the Indian board has just told us that it is waiting for directives from their government,” Altaf said. “Our chairman Ejaz Butt will meet his Indian counterpart in Colombo this week during the Asian Cricket Council meeting to discuss things, while I am also going to attend the ICC chief executives meeting, and we hope to make some headway on India’s tour,” he said.

The PCB official said he remained confident that eventually cricket will prevail over terrorism and the Indian government will clear the tour.

“Cricket has to resume in the subcontinent,” he said, adding: “We know that the Indian board wants to support us. Hopefully, the series will be played on schedule. Right now that is the most important thing for us.”

Altaf confirmed that players had been told to refrain from giving statements on Indo-Pak cricket as it was a sensitive issue.

“Their contract also bars them from interacting with media without prior permission,” he said.

He also made it clear that the PCB stance on cricketing ties with India was clear as always. “We don’t believe in mixing sports with politics.”

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