Pakistan news January 19, 2010

ICC hopeful of thawing of India-Pakistan relations

The ICC remains hopeful that bilateral contests between Pakistan and India can be resumed in the near future. Ties between the two governments have been rocky since the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008, which the Indian government blamed on elements based within Pakistan.

Soon after, an Indian tour to Pakistan was cancelled, bringing yet another halt to a brief period of cricketing detente; between 2003-04 and 2007-08, each country visited the other twice for full tours in addition to facing off in a number of ICC and offshore bilateral contests. Since the attacks, however, the two sides have only played one international match, a group game in the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy.

Subsequently the relationship between the two boards has become strained during the period of impasse. A nadir was reached in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Lahore on the Sri Lankan team, with many officials in the PCB believing the BCCI had somehow engineered the removal of Pakistan as a venue for the 2011 World Cup.

But David Morgan, the ICC president, believes he can broker a resolution between the two. "One of the things I am working on is trying to persuade the BCCI that they should play bilaterally as opposed to in ICC events with Pakistan," Morgan told Cricinfo. "India versus Pakistan, Pakistan versus India is the equivalent of the Ashes in Test match cricket parlance. It is very important for both countries that they renew their rivalries on the field in the five-day game. I am very hopeful they will."

A revival of the rivalry is crucial especially for the PCB, currently battling a financial crunch after the banishment of the country as an international venue. According to Ijaz Butt, chairman PCB, the board lost US$40 million as a result of India's cancellation last year; a fair portion of the US$140 million broadcast deal the board has with Ten Sports is believed to have been based on the series against India.

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Security concerns in Pakistan
  • September 2001- New Zealand decide not to tour Pakistan following the September 11 attacks. West Indies and Australia then decide to move their games in Pakistan scheduled for later in the year to neutral venues in Colombo and Sharjah.
  • May 2002 - New Zealand cancel their tour of Pakistan after a bomb blast outside Karachi's Sheraton Hotel where they were staying.
  • March 2008 - Australia postpone their tour of Pakistan slated for the end of March as a result of security concerns.The decision was taken in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto's assasination in December 2007.
  • August 2008 - Citing security concerns, five out of eight member nations of the ICC choose not to send their teams to Pakistan for the Champions Trophy scheduled for September the same year. As a result, the tournament is postponed until October 2009.
  • October 2008 - West Indies call off a proposed tour of Pakistan scheduled for November citing security concerns, a week after the West Indies Women had cancelled the Pakistan leg of their Asian tour.
  • December 2008 - The BCCI call off India's scheduled tour of Pakistan in 2009 following a directive from the government.
  • December 2008 - The PCB confirm that Sri Lanka will tour Pakistan after India decided not to after the Mumbai terror attack.
  • February 2009 - The ICC decide not to stage the 2009 Champions Trophy in Pakistan after some of the members expressed reservations about touring the country.
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The PCB has suffered losses of up to US$125 million over the last year or so, as a result of series and events being postponed, relocated or cancelled in light of the security situation in Pakistan. The ICC has set up a task force to work with the PCB and examine ways in which the financial impact of no international cricket can be lessened. One of the ideas emanating from their first and only meeting in December was to organize a series of fund-raising games between a World XI and Pakistan.

Morgan said he wasn't aware of the idea, but was awaiting a report from the task force of that meeting. "We'll be having a report from the task-force chairman Giles Clarke on the ninth of February when we meet in Dubai," Morgan said. "I am very pleased in the way the task force and the PCB interfaced really very well together."

At one stage last year the relationship between the PCB and the ICC also suffered; the PCB launched legal action against the world governing body following the decision not to stage matches of the 2011 World Cup in Pakistan, as was the original plan. But the dispute was resolved out of court and Morgan said that the situation had never got out of hand.

"There was an uneasiness, but never was it a difficult situation," Morgan said. "Mr Butt and I maintained good and decent relationships throughout. It was a very difficult time for them. At first there was a belief that they were being removed as hosts. That was never the case. The decision that the board took was that we couldn't actually stage any of the 14 matches in Pakistan but that the hosting rights were still Pakistan's.

"The ICC is determined that Pakistan should not be isolated. Pakistan is an extremely important cricketing nation, a very important part of the ICC. If you look back at the last two decades, Pakistan has produced some of the most stylish, some of the most achieving cricketers. It's important from world cricket's point of view that Pakistan is not isolated and that cricket continues to thrive there. It's obviously particularly difficult when cricketers cannot play on their home turf," Morgan said.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo