MS Dhoni, the India captain, has said the mixed reactions to the BCCI's decision to host Pakistan in December-January for a limited-overs series have had no effect on the team. "We are professional cricketers," Dhoni told reporters in Chennai prior to the national team's departure to Sri Lanka for a five-match ODI series and a T20 international. "The series will have to be played and we have to get ready for it. Sentiment does not play any part since we are taught to be professionals on field."
While many former cricketers welcomed the BCCI's decision, some, like Sunil Gavaskar and Kirti Azad, were critical, questioning the move - which revives bilateral cricketing ties after five years - due to outstanding differences between the countries since the Mumbai attacks in 2008.
The series against Pakistan is part of a hectic new season for India, who host New Zealand after returning from Sri Lanka, play the World T20, then host England and Pakistan. "We have to be positive and we have to understand that we are representing the country. It will be a bit tough because of the hectic schedule but we have to do well against Pakistan also."
The decision was hailed by Imran Khan, former Pakistan captain and now a prominent politician. "I welcome India's decision to revive cricket with Pakistan," Imran told reporters in Karachi. "Anything which can bring both the countries to negotiations and normalcy is very good and we must appreciate that.
"The prospect of India and Pakistan playing against each other is a good news for international cricket because these matches are followed by millions across the world. The Indo-Pak matches are special because of the high tension and whoever deals with that extreme pressure comes out as the winner."
Pakistan last played a match in India during the 2011 World Cup, in the semi-final in Mohali. The game was attended by the Prime Ministers of both countries. Since then, a Pakistan team, Sialkot Stallions, has been allowed to participate in the Champions League T20 to be held in South Africa later in the year.
"That semi-final in Mohali is a good example of the tension and the excitement. India committed a lot of mistakes in that match but they won because Pakistan made more mistakes in comparison."