India in Pakistan 2003-04

Forbidden gifts, and spinning a web

Wisden Cricinfo staff

March 6, 2004

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Until the end of the Indian tour of Pakistan, we will be running a daily Paper Round of what newspapers in India and Pakistan, and from around the world, are saying about this series. This is what the media had to say today:

India's external affairs ministry has approved a proposal to issue visas to cricket fans in the border city of Amritsar, The Times of India reports. "We have today conveyed to Pakistan our approval of the proposal for a visa camp in Amritsar to facilitate people from that region who wish to go to Pakistan to watch cricket matches," a ministry spokesperson said.

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India's players have been forbidden from accepting gifts during their tour of Pakistan, an official from the home ministry told The Times of India. Accepting personal invitations was prohibited, and only official receptions could be attended. The regulations laid down were to ensure there was no security risk. For the higher risk factor in Peshawar, the ministry advised that the team would not step outside the ground and the hotel.

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Khawar Rabbani, a computer analyst and Javed Miandad's friend, has been hired to assist the Pakistan team for the forthcoming series against India. Part of a four-man computer team, Rabbani's duties will include preparing and passing appropriate footage on to the bowlers. Speaking to Press Trust of India, Rabbani said, "The wing has been given the task to cast a web around the Indian batsmen and pinpoint their weaknesses and strong points."

Pakistan's last effort to spin a web ended with last year's unsuccessful World Cup campaign, and the analyst, Sikander Bakht, was promptly sacked. Even Intel gave up their plans to establish a computer lab at the Pakistan cricket board after the administrators made their disinclination clear.

But back to Rabbani. People weren't too happy with his inclusion by Miandad. Sources said, "Rabbani does not know much about computers and the other experts feel that in the presence of a lesser knowledgeable man, the system cannot be used to the best effects."

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According to The Times of India, during India's tour of Pakistan in 1982-83, the media had more than a few problems with the facilities. One problematic area was the scorer - in Lahore and Karachi the scorers were inaccurate, while in Faisalabad there was none.

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Just as Parthiv Patel and Irfan Pathan were giving up all hope of taking their 12th standard exam, the Gujarat cricket association has come out fighting for their cause, according to PTI. The cricket association appealed to the state government to allow the two players to take their exams at a later date. "Unfortunately, Parthiv has been missing his board exams for the last three years due to his selection in the Indian squad," Narhari Amin, the cricket association's president, said. "If the government could conduct exams in two phases when the earthquake occurred, why not for these cricketers who are playing at the international level?"

These were misplaced but welcome words for Parthiv, who said, "I feel awkward remaining in the 12th standard for the last three years. It would be good if the state government considers my request for a retest, as a special case."

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The Pakistan cricket board said it had not yet decided whether to introduce a Kapil-Imran trophy for India-Pakistan contests, according to The Times of India. Zakir Khan, a manager for the Pakistan board, pooh-poohed media reports, saying, "Reports appearing in the media are apparently based on speculations."

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The Pakistan cricket board has spent a large amount on Andy Atkinson, an English curator, who will remain in Pakistan for a month and direct pitch preparation for the upcoming series against India. Nothing wrong in that, except that a source who spoke to The News said that Atkinson was brought in to prepare pitches desired by the Inzamam-ul-Haq and Javed Miandad. But any budding conspiracy theories were popped when a board official declared Atkinson's appointment was to ensure result-oriented pitches.

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The ICC's special investigators will watch every ball of India's tour of Pakistan with keen interest, and keep an eye out for any signs of betting and matchfixing. According to a report in The Times of India players have been barred from using mobile phones and email on match days, and close-circuit cameras will monitor the dressing rooms. The level of betting during the series was expected to hit $15 million, and The Guardian reported that security officials would be employed to discourage feelers from potential matchfixers during the upcoming series. The officials will accompany the players constantly, and visitors will be screened. Besides the officials, regular security guards would also be present.

* * *

Hemang Badani, picked for the one-day squad, said the contest was between India's batsmen and Pakistan's bowlers, The Times of India wrote. "Playing Pakistan in Pakistan is never going to be easy," Badani said. "We have good bowlers and good batsmen, so it's like more of [our] batting against their bowling." He admitted it was tough to live up to the expectations of well-wishers, but said the team would give it its all.

"We cannot say we will come back with a 5-0 win," he said. "When we play Pakistan we are going to put in that much extra - that's what we as players can do and we will be surely doing that. Playing Pakistan means a lot for every cricket team no matter whatever way it is. I have been in the team for four years but I never got a chance to play against them," Badani continued. "It has been years since we have played each other. We haven't really gone there and played any cricket - for that reason it should be a very good tour."

* * *

To end on a cheery note, the chief minister of Sindh has declared a holiday in Karachi for the opening one-day clash Saturday, March 13. Acknowledging the cricket match was an honour for Sindh, Ali Muhammad Mahar said the holiday would allow people to watch the match live at home.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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