Come December, India could take on Pakistan in their first ‘away’ bilateral series in almost a decade.
Sporting ties and political relations between the two sides are interlinked but if all goes well, India will also shed reservations of playing at a neutral venue by travelling to the UAE. International teams have shunned Pakistan after the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus.
India and Pakistan cricket board chiefs met in Kolkata on Sunday and told the media that the series would likely comprise three Tests, five one-day internationals and two T20 games.
Visiting Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan and his India counterpart Jagmohan Dalmiya said there would be no issues with the series, provided the Indian government gave its go-ahead as has been the case.
“We’re trying to keep it on schedule. There are certain things we have to cross to actually hold the series. I’m very realistic. We still got six-seven months. UAE is ready. Preparations have begun,” Khan, a former senior diplomat, said.
An India-Pakistan series has to be approved by the Indian government, especially if it is played at a neutral venue.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India has in the past opposed bilateral games in a third country. The position, however, began to change in August when the board agreed to six such series between the two countries in the new future tours programme.
Beginning 2015, the series will be held over seven years.
Dalmiya said BCCI was game. “Without government support we can do nothing… There are various things that need to be ironed out but that’s only routine work. We have to come forward. Right now we find no problems,” he said.
The last the two countries faced each other in a bilateral series was in 2012-13, when Pakistan played two T20s and three ODIs in India. The last Test series was also in India, in 2007. India has not played a full series in Pakistan after 2006.
Khan said India-Pakistan cricket was a hot property and even Bangladesh was willing to play host. “These series between Pakistan and India are more important than any other series in the world, more important than even Ashes,” Khan said.
Pakistan board’s hopes of hosting India at a neutral venue brightened after BCCI held some of the games of the 2014 edition of the IPL in the UAE as the matches clashed with the general elections.
India stopped playing at non-regular venues in 2000 after a CBI report on match-fixing raised concerns.