One of sports’ greatest and impassioned rivalries has been resurrected after being comatose for half a decade.
Archrivals Pakistan and India are all set for new beginnings after bilateral cricketing ties between the uneasy neighbours saw a sudden breakthrough after five years.
Though prospects of a revival seemed bright for the first time in years, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s announcement on Monday that it would extend an invitation to host a short series at the end of this year against Pakistan caught many off guard. The decision was taken at the Indian cricket board’s working committee meeting in New Delhi on Monday.
“It was decided to resume cricketing ties with Pakistan by inviting the Pakistan cricket team,” read a BCCI media release following the hearing. “It will be held in December 2012 – January 2013. The modalities will be worked out shortly,” the statement added.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has welcomed the development with Chairman Zaka Ashraf describing it as a “fruitful result” of months of endeavouring. “The decision is great and we welcome it. It seems that millions of cricket fans have their wishes fulfilled,” he told reporters in Lahore.
The rivals have not played a series since Pakistan’s tour of India in 2007. Cricket ties were snapped following the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai.
According to BCCI Vice President Rajiv Shukla, the plan includes three one-day internationals (ODIs) and two Twenty20s (T20s).
While the schedule will be announced later, the series is expected to be played between December 23 and January 5. Shukla also hinted at the possible venues for the series. “New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata will likely host the ODIs,” he revealed. “Ahmadabad and Bangalore may host the two T20s.”
The PCB had been making one-sided efforts to revive bilateral cricketing ties between the two nations for the past few months which saw talks between dignitaries from both sides besides a series of discussions between the boards’ chiefs.
While the Indian board has cited its government’s reluctance on various occasions, a BCCI official confirmed that they have received a green signal this time — insisting that an official invitation has already been sent to the PCB.
Although it was PCB’s turn to host series as per the international schedule, the board’s chief refused to go into the debate. “It will be an ice-breaking series,” said Ashraf. “It will fill the gap and we can decide on other matters after that. Right now, we are happy on the development.
“It happened because of the efforts from both the boards. I was in constant touch with BCCI President N Srinivasan and we held many meetings. My trip to watch the Indian Premier League (IPL) final was a breakthrough as I held crucial discussions with various BCCI officials,” he revealed.
“The development is also a reflection of improving ties between the two countries at the international level.”
Players, officials and fans spoke of their delight at the resumption of a rivalry that has produced some of cricket’s most memorable moments.
Test captain Misbahul Haq said it was “great news” for millions of fans across South Asia. Former captain Javed Miandad was also ecstatic at the news. “It is definitely great news,” Miandad told AFP. “One must give credit to Ashraf for his wholehearted efforts to revive Indo-Pak cricket, and it paid off.”
While cricketing fans expressed jubilation, opposition from the usual quarters followed suit. An Indian extreme right-wing party, Shiv Sena, said it would not let Pakistan play in India — saying Pakistan was responsible for the 2008 Mumbai carnage and it would not be allowed to play in the country.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2012.