x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

New Pakistan cricket chief seeks resumption of series with India

UAE seen as a contender to host contest after Zaka Ashraf writes to Indian counterpart to revive an exchange that is both popular and lucrative.

Rao Iftikhar, the Pakistan medium pacer, left, attempts to run India batsman Virender Sehwag, right, out during the DLF Cup in Abu Dhabi in 2006. The two teams could play in the capital if India agree on a series.
Rao Iftikhar, the Pakistan medium pacer, left, attempts to run India batsman Virender Sehwag, right, out during the DLF Cup in Abu Dhabi in 2006. The two teams could play in the capital if India agree on a series.

Pakistan's new cricket chief wants to revive cricket's most intense rivalry, between India and Pakistan, and is keen for the UAE to play a central role by providing a venue for future contests.

Zaka Ashraf replaced Ijaz Butt as the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) last month and was in Dubai, where he saw the second one-day international between Pakistan and Sri Lanka on Monday.

One of the priorities in what is a bulging in-tray of a cash-strapped board is to resume lucrative ties with India, on hold for political reasons since the Mumbai attacks in November 2008.

And Ashraf wants to recreate those days during the 1980s and 90s when the two produced some of the most memorable moments in their rivalry at Sharjah. "My foremost idea would be to set up matches between Pakistan and India," Ashraf said at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

"I've written letters to the Indian cricket board and requested a meeting with the chairman. We used to have very good matches between the two in the Middle East and the stadiums were full.

"Now stadiums are not full because the biggest enthusiasm and support is always for India-Pakistan games and I want to revive those tournaments they used to play in Sharjah.

"I want the people of India and Pakistan to have the opportunity again to enjoy those matches."

Whether or not it will happen is another matter.

Butt, Ashraf's predecessor, tried persistently without success to resume ties, even after what appeared to be a breakthrough moment in Mohali earlier this year during the World Cup semi-final between the two.

The prime ministers of both countries met during that game and agreed to push for a resumption, but despite repeated attempts by PCB officials to push on, nothing has come out of it, other than an unconfirmed commitment in the Future Tours Programme (FTP) for a series in India in March next year.

"It will be fantastic for everyone to have those matches here and they should come back," Ashraf said. "I discussed this with the ICC [International Cricket Council] and they are supportive. That's why I want to take the initiative and maybe we will even go to the Indian government and put up a request."

Beyond India, Ashraf has equally pressing matters to try to resolve, bringing international cricket back to Pakistan prime among them; the UAE has been a "home" for their matches since the March 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team in Lahore.

Tentative talks on possibly inviting Bangladesh have begun, Ashraf said.

"I can't give a time frame [on when it might happen] but we had a good meeting with the Bangladesh board chairman. He is also of the view that to begin with Bangladesh might come and play.

"We'll probably discuss in December in Dhaka and then formulate a plan after that. But we'll ensure all security arrangements so that there are no lapses and it should be foolproof so that other teams can start coming as well."

osamuiddin@thenational.ae


Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE & Osman Samiuddin on @OsmanSamiuddin