Pakistan news November 18, 2011

Ashraf plans on visiting India in December

Zaka Ashraf, the PCB chairman, has said he has received a positive response from the BCCI to his letter to them requesting discussions on restarting India-Pakistan cricketing ties. Ashraf said the BCCI had invited him to have talks on the subject and he hoped to visit India in December.

"I have high hopes of reviving ties with India," Ashraf told reporters during the third ODI between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, in Dubai. "I have received a positive reply from India today and hope to go there next month."

Ashraf's comments came on a day when India and Pakistan's blind cricketers played a match in Lahore. "When we play India in events like kabaddi and blind cricket why not top-level cricket when India v Pakistan is already regarded as the most sought after series in the game," Ashraf said.

According to the ICC's Future Tours Programme, Pakistan are scheduled to tour India for three Tests and five ODIs in March-April 2012, but there is uncertainty over whether that series will take place as the Indian government has not yet cleared it. Relations between India and Pakistan broke down after the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. Since then there have been no bilateral series between the two countries and the only three meetings have come in tri-series or ICC events.

Ashraf, who was appointed PCB chairman in October, said one of the things foremost on his agenda was to revive cricket between India and Pakistan. He cited the fact that India and Pakistan's hockey teams still play each other regularly as a reason why the BCCI should agree to a series on either Indian or neutral soil.

"The people of India and Pakistan should not be deprived of this great contest" Ashraf had said during the second Pakistan-Sri Lanka ODI in Dubai. "Even in the UAE we used to have good matches between India and Pakistan and the stadiums used to be full. But now the crowds here are not that much because the biggest enthusiasm for the game is always for India-Pakistan. If India and Pakistan can play hockey in Pakistan and India, why can't they play cricket? That is my question for the Indian cricket board. "

He reiterated those desires on Friday and said he hoped to meet the president of the Indian board N Srinivasan when he visited India.

Indian ambassador to the UAE, Kapanaiah Lokesh, met Ashraf in Dubai on Friday, and said he would convey the sentiments of the people in the UAE to authorities in New Delhi. "India playing Pakistan is the highlight of international cricket and in the recent positive atmosphere between the two countries it is conducive to play cricket and I will convey this to New Delhi," Lokesh said.

"Cricket is in the blood of people in both the countries and it can be used as soft diplomacy as in the past; the relationship has improved in the past as well through cricket."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent