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January 14, 2006
The decision to mount a joint sub-continental bid for the 2011 World Cup was among a number of measures unveiled by the heads of the cricket boards of India and Pakistan to strengthen bilateral cricketing ties. Among other significant decisions are proposals to structure Test cricket between the two nations on the lines of the Ashes, with a full series every two years, and to resurrect the idea of one-day series at neutral venues, raising the possibility of the return of serious international cricket to the Middle East.
Addressing a joint conference, Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president and Shaharyar Khan, his Pakistani counterpart, said that the bid will include Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. "Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have welcomed this proposal to join Pakistan and India in 2011 World Cup bid," Pawar said. "It's not that we can't host the event independently but we want to share it so that the cricket followers of all the four countries can enjoy the excitement."
Australia were scheduled to host the 2011 World Cup according to the rotation policy of the ICC, but the Australian board has already indicated that it won't stand in the way of an Indian bid since the subcontinent had the capacity to generate much higher revenue from sponsorship deals. Jagmohan Dalmiya, former president of the BCCI, had strongly advocated the idea of the subcontinent hosting every third World Cup on the strength of possessing four Test playing countries. The last World Cup to be hosted in the subcontinent was in 1996.
Concerns were expressed recently - by both the Indian and Pakistan boards - that an overkill of matches between the traditional rivals might induce viewer fatigue, and with these announcements, it seems likely that the number of times both countries meet every year will remain high. Shaharyar, however, was insistent that it was not so: "A balance has been struck between not playing too often and playing every two years. It will whet the appetite of the two countries - we have played over 20 times in two years which is too much. It is still a popular rivalry. I don't think this is too frequent. Indications from sponsors are that they remain very keen and it is us who are holding them back from demanding more matches."
The Indian board is not keen on playing at neutral venues such as the Middle East after the match-fixing crisis, and Pawar reiterated that these formalities will be worked out at a later stage between the two boards. "India and Pakistan will play bilateral ODI series on neutral venues where there are large Asian populations because we want to popularise the game in these regions. Eventually, both boards will work out details of venues and duration in the future," he said. "Once again we would go to our governments for approval before finalising the venues but places like the United States and a few European countries are under consideration. We have offshore venues like Florida and New Jersey in the United States and some venues in the United Arab Emirates and we want to popularise cricket in these countries."
As a venue, however, the US would pose problems; the governance of the game there remains in a situation of considerable flux with two factions and the ICC's refusal to officially recognise either.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.