PCB chief meets politicians to discuss India series
Following PCB chief Zaka Ashraf's trip to India last week where he met several Indian leaders, he discussed the possibility of a bilateral series between the two countries with senior politicians in Pakistan.
In India, Ashraf had met with BCCI officials and also outgoing Pakistan ambassador Shahid Malik, and political leaders like Sharad Pawar, who is also the ICC president, Arun Jaitley, a leading opposition party leader and senior BCCI functionary, and Rajiv Shukla, the IPL chairman who is seen as being close to the Congress party which heads the ruling coalition.
"They all (Indian leaders) supported our positive intention to build up a relationship and revive the cricketing ties with each other," Ashraf told a press conference in Islamabad. "What I feel is that we will be able to play each other this year in any available slot."
He returned to Pakistan on Saturday and was due to brief media on Monday afternoon in Lahore but cancelled it to make a quick trip to Islamabad, where he met with senior political figures in the government before speaking to the press at a local hotel. Ashraf is close to Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari, who is also PCB patron, and he also holds a key position in the Pakistan Peoples Party central executive committee.
India and Pakistan have not played each other in a bilateral series since December 2007. It is India's turn to tour Pakistan, but the country has not hosted an international series between two Full Members at home following the Lahore terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in March 2009. Bilateral ties between India and Pakistan have been frozen since the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Pakistan, however, travelled to India to play in the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup.
Talks of a revival of Pakistan-India cricketing ties began when Ashraf requested Zardari to take up the issue with the Indian government. A meeting between the head of the states in Delhi in April provided more impetus to the talks with indications that the Indian government had no objections to the resumption of cricket between the two countries.
Ashraf, who had taken over from Ijaz Butt last October with Pakistan cricket facing a host of issues, called his India tour a successful one. "Reviving the relationship with India was the toughest task but the job is nearly done," he said. A final decision on a series between the two teams is likely to be taken in Kuala Lumpur, where the ICC's board of directors meets later this month.
He however ruled out the perception that only Pakistan was insisting on a bilateral series while India had little interest in it. "They want to play with us - that is the point we both agreed and have been discussing on the sidelines of ICC meetings in last many months.
"It's not like we are begging to play and depending on them. It's about the relationship that is eventually linked up with playing each other. The relationship with India is very important at the top level. Other than that there are minor issues like exchange of junior level teams, women's cricket team and participation in the IPL which will all be sorted out."
Malik, the outgoing ambassador in India, also called for a series between India and Pakistan. "I hope that the cricket bilateral series between India and Pakistan resume soon," Malik told reporters in Delhi. "There is a desire on the part of the leadership of both countries that this start."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent