After a five-year lull,the cricket boards of India and Pakistan have decided to re-start their bilateral cricket series,subject to security clearance.
The decision to invite Pakistan to play three one-day internationals (in Chennai,Delhi and Kolkata) and two T20 games (in Ahmedabad and Bangalore) in December 2012-January 2013 was taken at the BCCIs working committee meeting here on Monday.
Though both the teams have faced each other in multi-national events hosted by the International Cricket Council (ICC),most recently at Mohali during the World Cup last year,security fears and the frosty relationship between the two boards and the governments resulted in no home or away tours between the old rivals.
The cold shoulder to Pakistani cricketers at the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction in 2009 was seen as a major reason for the PCB-BCCI rift. BCCI secretary N Srinivasan and PCB president Zaka Ashraf were involved in several rounds of talks in the recent months to improve ties.
The PCB has been very persistent over the past few years on resuming cricketing ties. Until the security situation in Pakistan improves,there is no question of India travelling there. Besides,we were against playing at a neutral venue. The only option left was to invite them over, said BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla.
Meanwhile,Home Ministry officials said the BCCI was yet to inform them of the decision. A security assessment will be made only after the BCCI sends its proposal to the ministry,they said. A top official said a bilateral cricket series still seemed to be a high security threat. He also cited lack of cooperation from Pakistan in bringing the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks to justice.
No cricket team has toured Pakistan after the bus carrying the visiting Sri Lankan team in 2009 was attacked by terrorists. The PCB has had to settle for neutral venues to play their home games,because of which most of these matches were played in front of empty stands. This has resulted in a sharp decline in revenues for the PCB because there has hardly been any earnings from gate collections and the telecast rights have also dried up.
With India yet to honour its commitment of a return tour after Pakistans tour of India in 2007 the PCB sought a compensation package from the BCCI. It is learnt that during the talks last month,the PCB staked claim to a share from telecast rights revenue that the BCCI is earning. But sources in the BCCI said the demand was illogical. There is no question of sharing the revenue, they said.
While the cricket boards seem to have finalised everything at their end,a security clearance from the Home Ministry holds the key to the re-start of the cricket series. In 2009,the IPL had to be shifted to South Africa because the government refused to let Pakistani players participate in the event due to the perceived threat to their security.
Incidentally,the recent high-value catch in the 26/11 probe,Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal,told investigators that one of the top Lashkar commanders and an accused in the Mumbai terrorist attacks,Sajid Mir,visited India in the guise of a cricket fan to watch the 2005 series between the two countries. This fact was also corroborated by LeT operative David Coleman Headley,who is in US custody,and this statement is part of the chargesheet filed against Headley by the National Investigation Agency.