India's move step towards reviving bilateral ties - PCB
The PCB has 'welcomed' the step taken by the BCCI to include a team from Pakistan in Champions League T20 this year. This could lead to the revival of cricketing ties between the two countries, Subhan Ahmed, the PCB's chief operating officer said.
"It is indeed good news for Pakistan, and we welcome India's positive move," Ahmed told ESPNcricinfo. "We have been discussing the matter, how to revive our cricketing ties with each other, for many months. This is the significant move in that direction.
"For us it isn't a surprising move, but a much awaited one, as we have been holding discussions over the last two months. They [the BCCI] want to take gradual steps, and once things go successfully in the Champions League we can definitely move forward with our junior and senior teams."
Ahmed's reaction comes in the wake of the BCCI's announcement on Saturday that it would inform the tournament's governing council that it had no objection to the participation of a team from Pakistan.
The PCB had been pushing for the inclusion of a side from Pakistan, the only major Test-playing nation to not have had teams in either the qualifiers or the main round of the CLT20 since its inception. Sialkot were invited to the inaugural edition of the tournament towards the end of 2008, but it was put off after the terror attacks in Mumbai in November that year.
Those attacks strained political relations between India and Pakistan and, subsequently, the cricketing ties between the BCCI and the PCB. India and Pakistan have severed bilateral ties since, and Pakistan players - with the exception of Azhar Mahmood in the ongoing edition - have not been a part of the IPL.
Ahmed said that both cricketing and diplomatic channels were used to ease the tension. "The government has always been very supportive and has been playing its role when it needed," he said. "I think playing each other is always beneficial for both countries. We have laid out several proposals to revive the cricketing ties and the previous time we met, during the ICC's [exectuive board] meeting, we had a productive meet up [on the side], where several possibilities were discussed."
The Sialkot Regional Cricket Association (SRCA) is also pleased that their team, which is the domestic Twenty20 champion, is likely to play in the cash-rich league. "We were looking for the opportunity, as we have a team that has the calibre to compete in the Champions League," Zulfiqar Malik, SRCA President, told ESPNcricinfo. "It [ensuring participation] wasn't working out, but now things appear to be coming together. I appreciate India's move, which will ultimately help both countries to build a good relationship."
The Sialkot captain, Shoaib Malik, said this could be a chance for players from Pakistan to showcase their talent. "It is a relief to hear that finally we will get a chance to compete with the best teams in the Champions League," Malik said. "The ice has finally been broken. It is a good opportunity for us to convince the Indian people about the great talent in Pakistan cricket."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent