LAHORE - Pakistan’s Test and one-day captain Misbah-ul Haq on Thursday called for a quick revival of matches against arch-rivals India, saying that fans were keen to see the teams play.
India’s cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni also said India were open to play against Pakistan if the two boards agree to have a bilateral series in India. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Zaka Ashraf, who was invited to watch the IPL final between the Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders, had fruitful talks with Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) officials to revive cricket ties between the two countries.
An elated Dhoni said India-Pakistan series at home would be the best thing to have. India have suspended bilateral sporting ties with Pakistan since the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai by Pakistani nationals. “Pakistan if they come here and play us, nothing better than that. We are open for it. But according to schedule, I don’t know where it will fit,” said Dhoni.
India broke off diplomatic and sporting ties with its neighbour after the 2008 attacks on Mumbai which left 166 people dead and were blamed on militants based in Pakistan. But the visit last month of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to India has raised hopes the nuclear-armed rivals are eager to revive ties in sports, trade and travel. Cricket, the major sport in both countries, was discussed between Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, with Singh passing information on to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
After the talks, the BCCI gave the green light to Pakistan’s domestic Twenty20 champions Sialkot Stallions to take part in October’s Champions League. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Zaka Ashraf and chief operating officer Subhan Ahmed — who toured India to watch the final of the Indian Premier League on Sunday — have raised hopes of an imminent breakthrough.
Misbah, 38, played down reports in local media that players were not satisfied with pay rises awarded by the PCB last week, after a delay of five months. “Pakistan cricket is improving and such reports to create controversies are not good for us,” said Misbah.
The PCB upped players’ monthly salaries by 25 percent and match fees by 10 percent. “I think it must be welcomed as the PCB is not earning much because of no international cricket in the country,” said Misbah.
Meanwhile, former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram feels the Sialkot Stallions’ participation in this year’s Champions League T20 will “set the ball rolling” for the resumption of bilateral cricket ties between India and Pakistan. Akram welcomed the BCCI and the tournament organising committee’s decision to allow the Pakistan T20 champions to play in the CLT20 for the first time since the event’s inception in 2008. Interestingly, Sialkot were included in the inaugural season of CLT20 in 2008, but the tournament got cancelled due to the Mumbai terrorist attacks. “Knowing the kind of talent in Pakistan and especially in Sialkot, Indian fans will now enjoy watching their style of play. I think Sialkot’s participation is crucial to future bilateral ties,” Akram said.
“I hope Sialkot’s participation will set the ball rolling. It will have a great effect on the trust levels between the two nations,” he said. “The talks between the two boards have started on a positive note. Zaka Ashraf’s coming to watch the IPL final is a good start to end the bitterness between the neighbours.”