India invite Pakistan for rare Test series
NEW DELHI, India (AFP) — Indian cricket chiefs yesterday said they had invited Pakistan for a series later this year, their first in five years, in a further sign of improving ties between the neighbours.
If approved by the two governments, the series would comprise three one-day internationals and two Twenty20 games in December-January, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said.
"It was decided to resume cricketing ties with Pakistan by inviting the Pakistan cricket team for a short series in December 2012-January 2013," the BCCI said in a statement. "The modalities will be worked out shortly."
The rivals have not played a series since Pakistan's tour of India in 2007, after cricket ties were snapped following the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, which were carried out by militants from Pakistan.
The ODI matches will be played in Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi and the Twenty20 games in Bangalore and Ahmedabad, BCCI spokesman Rajiv Shukla told reporters in New Delhi.
The series will be held when England, who are due to tour India later this year, return home briefly for Christmas and New Year.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) swiftly welcomed the proposed series, which will now require approval from the Indian foreign affairs and home ministries.
"The decision is great and we welcome it. It seems that millions of cricket fans have their wishes fulfilled," PCB chairman Zaka Ashraf told reporters in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore.
Cricket ties have been the subject of discussions between the governments of both nuclear-armed countries, who have been holding regular meetings in a bid to improve ties and eventually thrash out a peace agreement.
The countries — where cricket is hugely popular — have fought three wars since independence in 1947.
The Indian and Pakistani cricket teams have only met in international tournaments since 2007.
They clashed in the World Cup semi-final in the north Indian town of Mohali last year, a high-profile game that was attended by the prime ministers of the two countries.
They also played during the Asia Cup in Bangladesh in March. Both matches were won by India.
An Indian government source told AFP the decision to resume cricket ties was made by the respective boards and not the government.
"The issue of resuming cricketing ties came up in recent bilateral talks and it was left for the boards to resolve it," the source said.
"Once they have decided, then there would be the issue of internal security, which will be reviewed and decided by various agencies."
Indian former players gave a mixed reaction.
Ex-captain Sunil Gavaskar said Islamabad was still not cooperating in the Mumbai attacks probe.
"Being a Mumbaikar (hailing from Mumbai), I feel what is the urgency (for a series) when there is no cooperation from the other side," the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency quoted him as saying.
But fellow former skipper Bishan Bedi welcomed the revival. "It is a step in the right direction," he told PTI. "The amount of interest and goodwill it will generate will be huge."
Players, officials and fans in Pakistan spoke of their delight at the resumption of one of cricket's great rivalries.
Test captain Misbah-ul Haq said it was "great news" for millions of fans across South Asia.