Cricket fans rejoiced as India invited Pakistan for a limited overs tour. -Photo by AFP

KARACHI: When Zaka Ashraf took over as Pakistan cricket chief in October last year his highest-priority tasks were to resume suspended home international matches and revive ties with arch-rivals India.

With security fears still running high, there is still no prospect of foreign teams touring Pakistan soon, but on Monday cricket fans rejoiced as India invited their neighbours for a limited overs tour in December-January.

The series, if approved by both governments, will end a five-year hiatus in series between two of the sport's greatest rivals and see the subcontinent come to a standstill for three one-dayers and two Twenty20 matches.

Terror attacks on India's commercial capital Mumbai in November 2008 brought cricket ties with Pakistan to a juddering halt, as New Delhi blamed militants from across the border for the three-day assault that left 166 dead.

Any resumption of cricket tours was seen as politically impossible in India until diplomatic relations improved and Pakistan showed willingness to tackle terror groups targeting the country.

But after more than two years without substantial progress, a thaw began during last year's World Cup, when India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch their sides contest the semi-final in the Indian city of Mohali.

Another key step came in April, when Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari asked Singh to restore links during a meeting in the Indian capital.

While the politicians and civil servants have played a crucial role, there have been on-and-off contacts between the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for more than nine months.

The two nuclear powers have gone to war with each other three times since their independence from Britain in 1947, and another conflict was narrowly averted in 1987 when Pakistan's then-military ruler General Zia-ul Haq visited India for a cricket series. Ashraf has been dogged in his determination to see the rivalry played out on the pitch again.

“There is definitely a sense of achievement but the credit goes to President Asif Zardari for initiating the revival and to the millions of fans who want India and Pakistan to play each other,” Ashraf told AFP.

Ashraf had some fence-mending to do with the BCCI after his controversial predecessor as PCB chairman, Ijaz Butt, soured talks on reviving matches by insisting on a 50-50 share of revenues.

BCCI president Narayanaswami Srinivasan initially snubbed the new PCB chief when Ashraf requested a meeting in December last year, but India relented after Zardari's trip in April.

“After President Zardari's visit there was an evident change,” said Ashraf.

“First I was invited to attend the Indian Premier League final in May and then our domestic team Sialkot Stallions was included in the Champions League.”

The Champions League is a Twenty20 event owned by India, Australia and South Africa and involving teams from top cricketing nations.

Ashraf and his colleagues suffered another temporary setback at an ICC meeting in Malaysia last month when BCCI officials gave them the cold shoulder, but the PCB chairman said he never lost hope.

BCCI spokesman Rajiv Shukla told AFP he had no doubt the series would get government approval and go ahead.

“The Pakistan board has been insisting for a series for a long time,” he said. “But we did not want to play it at a neutral venue.”

With the India trip decided, Ashraf must now turn to his second task, reviving international matches in Pakistan which have been suspended since a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009.

“We have an understanding with Bangladesh and we are confident that they will tour us in the near future,” said Ashraf.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (35)

porkchop
July 18, 2012 3:49 pm
NOOOOOOOOOO! absolutely not, no relations with Pakistan, forget cricket! majority of Indians does not want pakis in India, that is the unfortunate truth!
Nadu lal
July 19, 2012 2:12 pm
who cares man....
srinivasa
July 19, 2012 10:04 am
yes sure sure, world knows ur big heart--- u call this peace yeah....
Aamir
July 18, 2012 2:52 pm
Get a life!
Thought
July 18, 2012 11:41 am
Humble request to Pakistani government to cancel cricket series between india and pakistan.
Nanrak
July 19, 2012 10:11 am
Please avoid the word 'The two nuclear powers' which normally Indian papers do not use.
Sunil
July 18, 2012 4:23 pm
I cant understand why there is so much negative talk about this series. When we can have pak actor, singer and hockey player playing or performing in India why isolate Cricket. I am looking forward to great contest
vbi
July 19, 2012 10:41 am
More than all the issues you pointed, pakistan should stop using proxy war as a means to get world attention. You already know that pakistan has lost a lot of credibility and no takers in the world anymore for their arguments.
desi
July 19, 2012 10:45 am
Oh..is it ? So your way of getting peace is via kargil and 26/11 Right ? Is that what you meant by peace lovers ? Sorry, you probably need to look at the dictionary to know the meaning of the word 'peace'.
Mahabodh
July 19, 2012 12:45 pm
Separation produces hatred. Of course we do not want terrorism in our country. Terrorists have no religion, no country and no mercy. There faith is to kill innocents because of their ignorant mind. We must not confuse terrorists with general public of Pakistan. Pakistanis are very hospitable people. It is not that we Indians are influenced by terrorism,Pakistanis also have suffered a lot from terrorism. It is sad that Pakistan is not a full democracy, its army has high percentage of role in its policies . Cricket must be revived because it brings people together.
Silajit
July 18, 2012 2:31 pm
If you have a crib take it up with your own government. I don't think we should paper over the issues unless we see similar action against the Mumbai attackers (as what we saw against Dr. Afridi). I think if the Pakistani lawyers expect to get access for cross questioning witnesses in Mumbai, Indian authorities should be able to cross question Zarar Shah, Lakhvi and others as well. Short of that, any semblance of normalcy (eg. cricket) is of limited value.
Amit
July 18, 2012 2:48 pm
Dont forget 1.2 billion requests from across the border. We dont need pak-India series...never..ever..
Deb
July 18, 2012 2:47 pm
The government of India has not approved this tour as yet. With the prevailing anti-Pakistan mood in India, the government might just buckle under pressure and cancel this tour at the last moment.
Syed
July 18, 2012 4:55 pm
Based on what I have been reading on this forum and varous other new papers, one can not help but agree with Shahid Afridi's comment regarding Indians having a small heart compared to the Pakistanis. We as proud Pakistanis want peace in the region...We want revival of cricketing tie amongst other things, however Indian readers of this paper and various others do not seem to share the same sentiment. Shame on you guys...
Anita
July 18, 2012 5:15 pm
yaa, none of them shud be allowed in India
Umer
July 18, 2012 5:47 pm
Cricket series of this sort are a futile and one sided attempt by Pakistan to normalize relations. This series should be cancelled and important issues such as the violation of the Indus Waters Treaty by India, Kashmir should be sorted out first.
@god4atheist
July 18, 2012 5:50 pm
I wish it does.
Cyrus Howell
July 18, 2012 6:00 pm
Cricket actually could be the start of relative peace between Pakistan and India, keeping in mind the larger nation will always have more young prospects. Pakistan to win has to have athletes who train harder as well as play intelligently. Pakistan's players will have to be twice as professional as the Indians to be consistent winners. There won't be any fixing games between India and Pakistan.
Jawwad
July 18, 2012 7:04 pm
Thanks Sunil. Power usually corrupts people and obscure their view. The terrorist are going to attack again because they can never bear the thought of India/Pakistan being friends. You may hate Pakistanis all you want but certainly we in Pakistan cherish you music, actors, arts and culture.
Razzaq
July 18, 2012 7:29 pm
Only the hawkes are against it not the game loving crowd which will show up in grounds to prove how much they love the game.
Omar
July 18, 2012 9:56 pm
thanks Sunil, we need people like you on both side to look at the positives rather than the negative...any better contact on both side is a welcome move and the cricket series is going to be one. thanks, Omar
ramanan
July 18, 2012 11:18 pm
We don't want you here, not until you remove hate of India and Hindus from your school syllabus. 2611 is the symptom but the school syllabus is the cause..
vbi
July 19, 2012 3:27 am
Cricket brings in a lot of emotions though out the Indian population. The same cannot be said about other sports or artists you mentioned above. If you see an artist performing in another country, it is mostly the decision of that person to perform, but in case of cricket its the involvement of two governments and the entire population of both the countries. The main issue here is the way the response came for Mumbai attack from across the border. There has been denial, blame game etc. and enough proof against the country involved. It is this response which has caused lot of anger in India which finally is shown when it comes to hosting cricket. There was a time when Pak team traveled to India and won a test match in Chennai and got a great appreciation from the crowd. Not sure if the same response can be seen now. Earlier people used to think that governments could do more to have friendly relations with each other. But this time it looks like a very strange situation wherein people mostly are against this unless some action is seen to bring justice. So this is the difference.
Betweenthelines
July 19, 2012 4:52 am
I beg to differ. Only the Indians with a political disposition are objecting to this. True Indian cricket fans want to see India-Pak cricket games.
Betweenthelines
July 19, 2012 4:54 am
Thank you Sunil for your positive outlook, that's the spirit. I wish all Sunil's (including Gavaskar) thought this way.
alishah
July 19, 2012 11:31 am
by commenting posts like these u indians are showing ur true face and colours
Fahad
July 19, 2012 6:17 am
Lol. Hence proved that Dawn has more indian visitors then Pakistanis. Dawn does not potrays the views of majority of ordinary Pakistanis!
Brijesh
July 19, 2012 6:51 am
Frankly Sunil - I would isolate Pakistan as country as a whole. Let us have nothing to do with them. Cricket in India hits a raw nerve - hence the reaction. But I say, let us boycott the entire nation.
Guru
July 19, 2012 8:09 am
Til Mumbai attacks are resolved judicially, there should be no cricket or any other contact. For all Pak readers, imagine a group of Indians rampaging for 2 days thro Karachi or Lahore & we ask you to play cricket without offering any resolution even after 4 years, your answer will be 'Nada' as well. As to Pak being itself affected by terrorism, which is the usually quoted response, you brought it on yourselves by happily supporting the crazies from 1980s.
Arun Nair
July 19, 2012 8:04 am
Sunil, I completely agree with you. Bharat must ban Pakistani artists, actors, singers, hockey players etc. Let us live a peaceful life dear.
Umer
July 19, 2012 8:24 am
very true. I too have noticed that majority of the readership here is Indian.
Pavas Ambashta
July 19, 2012 9:53 am
If you think that the majority of Indians support the proposed Indo-Pakistan cricket series then you are at a serious mistake..Read any credible news source (I recommend "The Hindu) and comments..You yourself will understand the reality..I cant comment about the number of Indian visitors but I really like reading this news paper because it does not only talks of the accurate situation of Pakistan but also portrays the more or less accurate picture of India..
Amad Khan
July 30, 2012 10:29 am
U r right big brother.. I respect India as big brother, we are cut from same cloth have same nature, but only thing is missing is respecting each other. I wish u all a peaceful life and love to all of u. may God keep all of us safe and bring peace to our region.
Nirgun
July 31, 2012 5:17 am
It's true...India an Pakistan should fight together against terrist.....,
Nirgun
July 31, 2012 5:26 am
We too love your artists and music....unfortunately we have some bitter issues to be settled down....Pak an Ind. should fight together against terrorism., peace from India.
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