ABU DHABI // Saleem Altaf, the chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board, expressed a determination for the forthcoming series against local rivals India to take place on home soil, despite contingency plans being made for the matches to be played here in the UAE or in England. "We are going ahead as scheduled for the opening tour game in Hyderabad [from Jan 6-9]," was Altaf's strong message delivered during his country's victorious one-day international series against West Indies.
"Preparations are in full swing from our point of view but there are so many things that still need to be done and so far nothing has come from the Indian board [to suggest that they will not fulfil the fixtures]. "Normally, visiting boards are guided by their governments and a security team comes ahead of the official party. "Since nothing has been heard from them we are going ahead with our plans. We would have expected the security people to have arrived by now."
Altaf conceded that it was imperative to have alternative arrangements in place. "We are being prepared for any eventuality," he said. "Abu Dhabi is three hours from India and Pakistan. There is a possibility of even playing in England and my chairman [Ejaz Butt] has spoken to his ECB [England and Wales Cricket Board] counterpart Giles Clarke. "That is an option, but we are still keen on hosting India since it is our home series."
The success of Pakistan's current one-day series against West Indies - the second of the three matches attracted a capacity crowd to the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Friday - makes Abu Dhabi a strong contender to be chosen as the alternative venue. England have also offered to host the series and it could be a popular choice in the eyes of the large Pakistani and Indian communities there. Altaf's strong personal links with the UAE could be a factor. He was posted in Abu Dhabi as station manager of Pakistan International Airways for four and half years and later returned after retiring to become project manager for the construction of the Zayed Cricket Stadium.
Altaf, who played Test cricket on 21 occasions for his country, has become a close friend of Dilawar Mani, the chief executive of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council and who has offered to stage the Indian series free of charge. Altaf also informed that the process for bagging the telecast rights of its next five year schedule will be done this week. firstname.lastname@example.org