India is likely to let Commonwealth nations have free access to its world-class cricketing facilities. An official announcement about this proposed open invitation is likely to take place during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to London next month for the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summit.
Officials of the Ministry of External Affairs, sources said, had met BCCI representatives a few weeks ago and expressed the government’s desire to use cricket to enhance India’s relations with other Commonwealth countries.
It is learnt that a memorandum of understanding will be signed between the government and the BCCI in the coming days. If all goes to plan, two to three Commonwealth teams will travel to India each year, with BCCI bearing the cost of these trips.
“CEO Rahul Johri and Saba Karim (General Manager, Cricket Operations) had a few meetings with the Ministry of External Affairs and also with the Sports Ministry. The paper work is almost complete. The Indian board will lend its support to countries who come under the Commonwealth. As India is a powerhouse in world cricket, the government wanted the board to lend a helping hand to these countries and let them use the top-class facilities,” sources said.
While the Commonwealth includes cricketing heavyweights Australia, England, Pakistan, South Africa and nations that make up the West Indies, countries like Zambia, Singapore, Uganda, Fiji, Namibia, Bahamas and Papua New Guinea are associate and affiliate members of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and are part of various lower-tier divisions of world cricket. Exposure trips to India should go a long way in improving cricketing standards in these countries.
“Some of the teams play in ICC tournaments but never get a chance to visit India. Having a small camp might help them. The board can have camps in Andhra Pradesh, Bengaluru or any other part of India. We have earlier allowed Afghanistan to play their home games in India, and they continue to do so,” sources said.