The message was short and sweet (for people this side of the border, at least).
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) released key issues of its working committee’s meeting, casually slotting in the massive decision to ‘resume cricketing ties with Pakistan by inviting the Pakistan cricket team for a short series’. Surprise and shock prevailed in the immediate aftermath, even at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) where Zaka Ashraf did not see it coming.
Deep in financial trouble – the outlook not too bright either – the PCB has been long seeking a bailout in either a Pakistan Premier League or a series against India, preferably at home. It recently announced a deficit budget of Rs700 million for the next year – an improvement of sorts from the Rs1.1 billion the year before – but coming home to the fact that a league had issues stretched wider than what it can handle right now, the emphasis was placed on pleasing India.
Zaka harped on about reviving international cricket in Pakistan and launching a league that would revive their fortunes, refusing to accept the ground reality that for that to happen, the security situation needed to be improved. Eventually, it dawned upon him that law and order wasn’t really in his hands and Pakistan needed to look elsewhere. The voice he raised for a bilateral series at every junction, at every press conference and at every dinner, became the crux of his existence.
By the looks of things, it’s paying dividends.
It’s too early to tell whether the tour will go ahead or not but just like it pulled the strings as it went from playing four series in just over three and a half years to shunning Pakistan for almost five years, the Indian cricket board has once again acted at its convenience. Perhaps this is about uniting the Asian bloc against the rise of Australia and England or dimming the growing concerns over India’s money-led dominance of the governing body by having an ally. And fresh on our minds are the continuous refusals, the IPL embarrassment and the Champions League snub.
But this time, Pakistan stand to benefit too. This series is about quenching the thirst – the two sides have met just eight times since December 2007. But the resumption, despite Pakistan not getting the hosting rights which they were due, will offer momentary respite to the finance department at Gaddafi Stadium. A home series would’ve spelt spring – an estimated Rs420 million if India had toured – but the marketing department, and the PR agency, will be working overtime to take maximum mileage out of this.
There is plenty of opposition though. Both boards – and their various gramophones blaring out the message of peace – want this series to help improve ties between the two governments. That may not happen but neither side would mind the lack of effort on that front. The Kargil conflict erupted just weeks after Pakistan played a series in India. Last year, Pakistan were welcomed in Mohali, showered with petals and praise aplenty which turned into wrath following Shahid Afridi’s ‘chotay dil’ comments. Sunil Gavaskar has already showed his displeasure, Afridi wasn’t too far behind yesterday.
But the hearts will always be on the sleeves. What the PCB, and the millions sitting in anticipation, should know that the BCCI works in a funny way.
The ‘I’ in the abbreviation is a hint alone. There was word that India coaxed Bangladesh into pulling out of the proposed tour of Pakistan, offering a lucrative home series against MS Dhoni’s men a reward for the move. Now Bangladesh players will be spending Christmas at home.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2012.
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