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Saturday, July 9, 2011

India hold key to Pakistan's future -ESPN PAKISTAN

Pakistan's future as an international cricket team could hinge on the willingness of India to resume bilateral relations, according to a source close to the ICC Pakistan Task Team, which recently published a 38-page report into the future of the game in the country.
The PTT, which was headed up by the ECB chairman Giles Clarke and drew on the experience of three former Test captains in Ramiz Raja, Mike Brearley and Greg Chappell, presented its findings at the ICC's annual conference in Hong Kong last week. The report addressed a number of wide-ranging issues, from the quality of ball used in domestic cricket to the structure of the Pakistan Cricket Board itself.
The report has been criticised for being whimsical in tone, because it failed to address the most fundamental problem facing Pakistan at present - the deteriorating security situation which led, in March 2009, to a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore. However, in the opinion of the men who compiled the report, the most pertinent issue is one of finances, because unlike terrorism, that remains something that the international cricket community is capable of addressing.
"The ICC has a security task force, but it can only talk about security when you are dealing with a country where it can be provided," the source told ESPNcricinfo. "It's not for cricketers to lecture governments about that.
"Pakistan cricket is right on the edge financially. The report makes it bluntly clear what's necessary, which is that the Pakistan government and ICC must work together, and that India should play Pakistan if they are going to survive economically.
That recommendation is spelt out in bold type on the sixth page of the PTT report, and does not couch its words in chiding India for a failure to assist a fellow Test nation. The two teams have not faced one another in a bilateral Test series since November 2007, with the following year's terror attacks in Mumbai putting an instant freeze on diplomatic relations. Nevertheless, in that time, Pakistan have played overseas series against every other Test nation bar Bangladesh - with two of those, against Australia and South Africa in 2010, taking place at neutral venues.
"Several other boards [are] going out of their way to ensure touring commitments could be honoured and new opportunities conceived," the report states. "There is one notable exception, however, which must be highlighted in the strongest possible terms.
"The absence of the traditional bilateral series between Pakistan and India from the international cricket calendar is denying millions of cricket loving fans across the world from enjoying an iconic series. It is also hurting the sport, particularly in Pakistan and the PTT sees no reason why this great sporting rivalry should not be restored as soon as possible, even if on neutral soil.
"The PTT fully appreciates the historical issues, but urges the ICC Executive Board and all related parties including both Governments to seek a swift resolution to enable this great iconic series to resume to the benefit of all stakeholders in both countries and the rest of the world."
Reaction to the report has been muted in both India and Pakistan. The PCB has set out a ten-day timeframe in which to respond to the PTT's 63 recommendations, but is reportedly unhappy with some aspects, particularly those concerning selection and contracts. India's government, meanwhile, remains to be convinced of the merits of a resumption of cricket ties.
From a strictly sporting point of view, however, the PTT believes that the Indo-Pak rivalry is the cornerstone of the modern international game, as demonstrated by the massive interest in the recent World Cup semi-final in Mohali. "India needs iconic series too," said the source. "The ratings speak for themselves.
"If you had a Pakistan v India series every two years, even at a neutral venue, how much money would that put into both India and Pakistan cricket? One only needs to look to the Ashes to see what a truly iconic series is worth."
The report, which has been drawn largely from conversations with Pakistani players and administrators living in Dubai, Pakistan and England, has been described as a blueprint for helping Pakistan cricket drive itself forward. But in the short term at least, the country needs assistance from its nearest and largest neighbour to find its feet in the international game once again.

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