After five years of no cricket, India and Pakistan will play again this December. The cricket boards of the two countries have agreed to play three One-Day Internationals and two Twenty20 Internationals during the Christmas break. India will host the series and sources say the it has the government's nod.
A short Board of Control for Cricket in India statement said today that the modalities of the series will be worked out shortly."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 modalities will be worked out shortly," BCCI said in its statement.
The One-Dayers will be played in New Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai and Bangalore and Ahmedabad will host the two T20 matches.
India has a packed cricket schedule this year and the Indo-Pak matches will be accommodated in the middle of England's tour to India. England will finish playing Tests and the team will fly back for Christmas. They will be back in the New Year to play ODIs.
BCCI member Rajiv Shukla said that the Pakistan Cricket Board has been urging for resumption of cricketing ties. "We played after 1965 war and the 1971 war and even after Kargil. People also wanted cricket to be played. Our decision was taken after PCB appealed to us. They also spoke to BCCI president N Srinivasan. I spoke with the government as well," he said.
An India-Pakistan encounter on the field will be manna for cricket fans, but not everyone is ecstatic; former India captain and ace batsman Sunil Gavaskar has warned that India will at that time be in the middle of playing England, the world's best team and will need the rest that the Christmas holidays will afford before going back headlong to the one-dayers.
He also said, "As a Mumbaikar I feel what's the need of playing cricket with Pakistan? What's the urgency of playing cricket when there has been no co-operation from the other side? If you get away by doing a wrong thing once then you tend to do it again." (Watch video here)
The Maharashtra Congress has also asked the BCCI to reconsider the decision to restart cricket ties with Pakistan. The Congress in New Delhi however said that it has always maintained that cricket and politics should be kept apart.
The two countries last played a Test and ODI series way back in 2007. Then came the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 plunging bilateral ties between the two countries to an all-time low. Cricket suffered. India were scheduled to tour Pakistan in January 2009, but most players said they were reluctant to go.
Sri Lanka stepped in and agreed to tour Pakistan instead, but a terror attack on the visiting team in Lahore on March 3, 2009, saw an end to international cricket in Pakistan. Since then, no international team has toured Pakistan. Even World Cup 2011 matches scheduled to be played in Pakistan were shifted to other venues in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Â
On the sidelines of efforts to revive bilateral ties between the two nations, the Pakistan Cricket Board has been pushing hard to resume cricketing ties with India and also bring back international cricket to Pakistan. Earlier this month, the foreign secretaries of both the countries had talked about resuming sporting contact and last week, PCB chief Zaka Ashraf made three offersÂ - that India could tour Pakistan, or play them at a neutral venue, or then it could allow PCB to host their home series in India.
The PCB chief has held several meetings with BCCI president N Srinivasan. Later this year, the BCCI has invited Pakistan's domestic champion outfit the
Sialkot Stallions to participate in the qualifying Tournament of Champions League Twenty20 to be held in South Africa later this year.
For the last five years, India and Pakistan have only played each other in multi-team series and in the famous semi-final of the 2010 World Cup when India defeated Pakistan at Mohali.