August 23, 2001

Pakistan Test stars accuse India of double standards

Former Pakistan stalwarts accused New Delhi of double standards and believed that India had pulled out of the Asian Test Championship because they were afraid of losing. Intikhab Alam, a former captain and coach, said: "It's a senseless decision. In my personal opinion, the Indians are afraid of losing to Pakistan."

Hasib Ahsan, another vocal Test off-spinner, went a step ahead when he suspected Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) involvement in the withdrawal. "I suspect that BCCI themselves asked their government not to clear the tour because they know they can't go anywhere after losing to Pakistan in Lahore," he said.

Pakistan had thrashed India in the inaugural Asian Test Championship fixture at Kolkata in near silence. India were last year bulldozed by Moin Khan's men in the Asia Cup one-day tournament in Dhaka. Pakistan won both the titles while India failed to qualify for the finals.

The Indians have suffered a string of defeats after their historic success against the Australians at home. They lost the one-day tournament finals in Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka while lost the first Test at Galle by 10 wickets. "If India thinks that Kashmir issue would be resolved by not playing cricket, then they are foolish," Hasib continued, adding: "India has mixed sports and politics and I knew it from the last two to three months that they have no plan to come to Pakistan."

Intikhab said: "This decision spells politics and politicians would be the only gainers and cricket will be the loser." Intikhab questioned New Delhi's policy of only targeting cricket. "Yasin Merchant won the Asian snooker championship in Karachi in June while an Indian player appeared in a squash tournament in Peshawar earlier this month. In October, India will be sending its contingent for the SAF Games. But when it comes to playing cricket, they disallow permission.

"New Delhi's policies and logic are mindboggling in the background that they had said in April that they had no objection if India plays Pakistan in any multinational tournaments," Intikhab said.

Intikhab demanded New Delhi to spell out its policy and come out clean rather than confusing the situation and playing ping pong with Pakistan. However, the former Surrey player felt that since all the three Asian countries have won World Cups, they needed to play against each other more often to form a formidable Asian block.

Wasim Akram, under whose captaincy Pakistan won the Chennai and Kolkata Tests in 1999, wondered if he would get another chance to play a Test against India. "I don't know if I will get a chance to play them again. I am in the twilight of my career and time is not in my hand. That's precisely why I was keen and geared up for the Lahore Test," Wasim, who was also a member of Imran Khan's 1986-87 Bangalore Test winning team, said.

Wasim said New Delhi's decision has not only dampened the hopes and dreams of cricketers of the two countries, it has also spoiled the party of billions of fans.

"If the Australians or the Englishmen dream to play in the Ashes, cricketers from Pakistan and India like to play against each other. Similarly, there is probably more interest in the followers of the game when India and Pakistan lock horns rather than Australia facing England," Wasim said.

PCB Cautious: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) reacted cautiously to the fate of two other assignments involving India after New Delhi reportedly withdrew its team from the Asian Test Championship starting Aug 29.

Pakistan `A' is scheduled to tour India in Nov while traditional rivals are to jointly host a quadrangular tournament next year in March, also involving the West Indies and Zimbabwe. While the PCB officials restrained from any comments on New Delhi's decision, they said a formal invitation from India regarding the Pakistan `A' team's tour was still awaited.

"As regards the quadrangular tournament, that stage at present is too far away. Let's see how the winds blow in the days to come," director of the PCB, Brig Munawar Rana, said from Lahore. Brig Rana, on India's withdrawal, said since the highest authorities in India have taken the decision, Pakistan's response would be issued by Islamabad. He, however, admitted that a statement from the foreign office was expected sometime Wednesday evening.

The PCB official said India had informally invited to host Pakistan `A'. He, nevertheless, added that once a formal invitation is received, it will be considered keeping in mind the present situation.