CHENNAI - After a one-hour meeting with his Indian counterpart on Sunday, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Zaka Ashraf has this to say to the subcontinent cricket fans: brace up for some “breaking news” on the bilateral series between the neighbouring countries.
Ashraf, in Chennai to watch the IPL final on a ‘rare’ BCCI invitation, said he was happy with his first meeting with BCCI president N. Srinivasan, whom he called his ‘elder brother’, and said that both Boards made “a lot of pledges” on resumption of the bilateral Test series that were disbanded over four-and-a half years ago following the Mumbai attacks in 2008.
“It was a courtesy call by Mr Srinivasan as I’m his guest. It was a one-to-one meeting. We discussed many things in brief. There were a lot of pledges (made) from both sides, (he said) that we’re planning something better; he didn’t tell me what it was. But he said that in one or two months some concrete and positive things would come out,” Ashraf told Mail Today after the meeting.
“I feel that if what he says and what he plans is implemented the bilateral series will really be revived. I am quite hopeful,” he said. “My feeling is that the thinking is changing; the ice is melting. I think there could be breaking news in, maybe, one or two months.”
Continuing his positive vibes, Ashraf, 59, called himself the younger brother of Srinivasan, 67. “One is the big brother, the other is younger; and we want both of us to work together for the betterment of the two nations,” he emphasised. “I’m referring to India as the big brother because it’s the bigger country. And the head of its Board will obviously be the big brother. He is elder to me and also lives in the larger country. Obviously, he has bigger responsibilities, and I convey all the good wishes to him.”
The two countries have not played a Test series since 2007 when Pakistan toured India. They have, however, been playing in multi-nation one-day series at neutral venues. “We feel that if India is reluctant to play in Pakistan, maybe we can have a joint series in India and can share the revenue. We don’t know if the BCCI would agree to it. We can play the series in India for a year or so, before they can be confident that they can go to Pakistan and play there. I wish to convey this tomorrow when we’ll meet (again) in a one-to-one meeting,” Ashraf disclosed.
BCCI’s invite to Ashraf seems a positive step considering that only last month the Board had rejected PCB’s proposal to play its ‘home’ series (against other nations) in India, as teams have refused to tour Pakistan after the attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009.
Since then, the BCCI has invited Pakistan’s national T20 champions Sialkot Stallions for the Champions League T20 to be held in India in October and then Ashraf to watch the IPL final.
The PCB president put the onus on the BCCI to take a decision. “The ball is in their court. We’re always looking forward to bring the cricketing relations back on track since they were derailed in 2007,” he said while pointing out that the security scenario in Pakistan has improved since 2009.
Ashraf said that he has been told that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has played a positive role in pushing for resumption of the bilateral series. “The Pakistan President, who is also PCB patron, on his last visit to India (last month), had a very good conversation with Mr Manmohan Singh in Delhi,” he said.
“At that meeting, he emphasised the importance of the resumption of the cricket ties and Mr Manmohan Singh agreed to it, and said that he’d immediately convey this to his (cricket) Board. What I’ve heard is that the Indian PM has taken keen interest in the revival of cricket between the two great nations.”
Meanwhile, former foreign secretary Lalit Man Singh welcomed the development. “It appears that Pakistan does not want to harp on issues like Kashmir and focus on doables. This is a welcome sign. Cricket matches, people-to-people contacts and more trade will contribute to the attempts made at normalisation of ties,” Man Singh said.