India's tour of Pakistan is all but off. While there was no official word on the matter yet, with authorities being kept busy with more important developments, sources in the Board of Control for Cricket in India confirmed that there was little chance of India traveling to Pakistan in early 2009 as earlier scheduled.
“At the moment you can say that there is very little chance that the team will travel to Pakistan,” a top official told HT. “But at the end of the day it is up to the relevant government ministry to give a directive to the board. We will wait for that.”
The tragic events in Mumbai have put a serious spanner in the works, but even before that there was some doubt over whether the tour would go on. Three days before the terrorist strike at Mumbai the office of Mr Raghavan, Joint Secretary of the ministry of External Affairs in charge of Pakistan, wrote to the BCCI, asking them to undertake a visit to Pakistan in early December to review the security situation.
In the recent past, before every tour to Pakistan the BCCI has undertaken such a mission. Before the 2003-04 tour the team that took the security visit comprised Yashovardhan Azad, a senior police officer with experience in dealing with VIP security, Prof Ratnakar Shetty (now chief administrative officer of the board) and Amrit Mathur (then media manager). In 2005 Azad, Shetty and GS Walia, the north zone representative of the BCCI’s media unit, made the visit.
The MEA wanted the BCCI to officially write to the ministry to facilitate the undertaking of a similar visit in the first week December. The security team would then return and submit a report on the conditions in general and specifically security at stadia and hotels where the team would stay. However, in the aftermath of the Mumbai incidents it seems unclear if this visit will even take place.
When the foreign ministers of Pakistan and India met in Delhi for more than two hours on November 26 and had both sounded optimistic that the tour would take place as scheduled. “It (the tour in January) should come through. We are aware of the concerns and we will try to address all of them,” Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said, while Pranab Mukherhji, his counterpart, added, “I hope the tour comes through and the people will enjoy it.”
However, things have changed dramatically since then, and sources indicated that there was even a chance that sporting ties between India and Pakistan could return to the pre-2003 status. At the time India did not travel to Pakistan for bilateral series in any sport. Only recently a junior hockey team was denied permission to travel to Pakistan.