Hockey India has received a proposal for a six-match bilateral Test series from the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), which it will forward to the government for approval soon. Three matches on either side of the border have been proposed by the PHF.
“Hockey India and PHF have been in discussion for many months. We received a proposal from them recently and will be sending it to the government for approval. We will work out the modalities after getting the clearance,” HI secretary-general Narinder Batra told HT over phone.
If the government approves, Batra said, the series could be held either in August before the Asian Champions Trophy at Ordos, China, from September 3-11 or towards the end of September before the Indian team leaves for a training-cum-competition tour of Australia.
If it materialises, it would be the ninth Test series between the arch-rivals.
It would also be the first visit to Pakistan by India after February 2006 when a team led by Ignace Tirkey played three Tests across the border, winning the series 1-0.
The Pakistan team visited India twice last year — for the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
With the Indian government not in the mood for sporting relations with Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks in 2008, the two federations had even discussed playing on neutral venues. But in the wake of the recent thaw in relations, the two federations have decided to move a formal proposal.
Though the two federations have discussed reviving the series since the World Cup in New Delhi, this is the first time a concrete proposal will be forwarded to the government.
PAK CLEAR SERIES
Reports from Islamabad said the PHF officials met interior minister, Rehman Malik, and sports minister, Shaukatullah, on Tuesday and got the approval for the same. The interior minister even proposed to invite home minister, P Chidambaram, for one of the matches, which they propose to organise in Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad.
Batra said he was hopeful of getting the government nod considering the recent normalisation of relations. "I am hopeful that the government will give its clearance considering the revival of diplomatic initiatives with Pakistan. It would be a good preparation for our team as it gears up for the Champions Trophy in December and the Olympic qualifiers in New Delhi in February 2012," Batra said.
HI will also be looking at the series as a means to generate revenue, as an India-Pak hockey series is a money-spinner. The rivalry dates back to their first international encounter in the Melbourne Olympic Games when India beat Pakistan 1-0. Overall, Pakistan have enjoyed the upper hand though in 2010, India won all four encounters involving the senior team.