As a senior official of the Pakistan Cricket Board and a former player, it's a very happy day for me to see the revival of cricket between India and Pakistan. We are neighbours and whatever happens we can never be separated.
Our cricket is similar — the playing conditions, nature of wickets, our playing styles, everything is the same. Our culture, food, drinks, language, habits are common.
I feel relations between India and Pakistan should be free and transparent in order to reduce tensions. We have lived our lives, but this is the least we can do for our future generations. We don’t want our children to learn hatred. It will not help anybody. I believe most issues are the result of a communication gap and we should do everything possible to ensure it doesn’t happen.
It’s not about winning or losing a match on the cricket field. We lost to India in the World Cup at Mohali last year, but the atmosphere was so positive that the result didn’t matter. There was bonhomie at the ground as many Pakistanis went for the match.
When I started playing, India toured Pakistan after 20 years and it was quite an experience. I forged everlasting friendship with Indian players. Due to the snapping of cricketing ties, I have missed meeting my Indian counterparts. It is such a pleasant experience to catch up with Sunny bhai (Sunil Gavaskar), Ravi Shastri, Dilip (Vengsarkar), Bedi saab (Bishan Singh Bedi).
When I used to go to Bangalore, we met Gundappa Viswanath and Syed Kirmani, and there are so many fond memories of those meetings. Whenever I’ve been to India as a player and as coach, our team has been so well received. Everyday, we get invitations for dinner and functions.
I was the coach in 2004 when India toured Pakistan and the Indian fans, who came here, said the hospitality was amazing. There is so much to learn from each other. By playing regularly, both teams will reap the benefits. There is no dearth of pacemen in Pakistan, while India has been doing everything, including bringing in Dennis Lillee, to improve its pace attack. I am sure, by playing against our pacers, they will benefit more in the pace department. Similarly, we can benefit a lot by playing against the famed Indian batsmen.
You can play as much local cricket as you want, but there is no substitute to international cricket. Mentally, players become stronger. Financially, too, it will benefit both the boards.
I don’t want to get into the politics of it, but cricket in the subcontinent has improved after the Asian bloc came together. I remember (Jagmohan) Dalmiya taking the initiative after he realised that the Asian bloc was generating most of the revenue. Our cricket has become stronger since.
Now, you have a 10-year fixed calendar for cricket, but the advantage of being neighbours is that India and Pakistan can play unscheduled games too whenever they are free.
The Indian Premier League will grow even further with the Pakistan players back in the mix. Our players are professionals and they will bring class to the IPL. When Sohail Tanveer played the inaugural edition of the IPL, he emerged the highest wicket-taker. This year, Azhar Mahmood too did very well.Our board chairman, Zaka Ashraf, has put in a lot of effort to revive cricketing ties and I congratulate him. I believe sport should be kept away from politics and I request everyone to build on this positive step.