India, Pakistan cricket ties to resume after four years

NEW DELHI: The home ministry has given the go-ahead to Pakistan’s tour of India for a five-match cricket series later this year.

The tour will end on January 7 with matches being played in Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, BCCI vice-president Rajeev Shukla announced after meeting home secretary R K Singh. “It is good news for the sports community. We look forward to a good series although a lot of detail still needs to be sorted out,” said Shukla.

The sports ministry received the relevant file around 20 days ago and processed in a fairly routine manner. The Pakistan team will arrive in India on December 22 and the first match, a T20 International, will be played on Christmas day.

The home ministry is understood to have made elaborate security arrangements in the face of opposition from political parties like BJP as well as Congress’s Maharashtra unit.

Resumption of cricket ties has been opposed due to the absence of credible progress in the trial of 26/11 perpetrators and lack of action against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed. No match has been scheduled in Mumbai, apparently keeping in mind the sensitivities of Mumbaikars.

As Pakistani VVIPs are also expected to watch a match or two, security can be expected to be stringent. The Centre will provide paramilitary reinforcements to host states to aid local police. With Gujarat polls due to wind up on December 20, there will be enough forces available. Venues, sources told TOI, may be provided three-tier security comprising private security to be deployed by BCCI inside the venue, police at access points and Central forces at vantage areas. Travel details would also be as per a security plan.

Though India and Pakistan have played each other in international cricket events in recent times, their last bilateral Test and ODI series was in 2007. An Indian tour to Pakistan in 2009 had to be called off after players expressed their reluctance and even Pakistani cricket officials privately suggested that security would be a serious issue.

BCCI had in July announced the resumption in cricketing ties with Pakistan with an invitation to the Pakistan cricket team for a short series in December-January.
Though India has played Pakistan in international events in the last few years, no Indo-Pakistan series was held in view of tension between the two neighbours after the 26/11 strikes.