India’s board confident of clearance


India’s cricket chiefs are confident they will secure the government’s clearance to host Pakistan for a short tour later this year, an official said on Tuesday.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has invited Pakistan to play three one-dayers and two Twenty20 matches in December-January, the first bilateral contests between the arch-rivals in five years.
“We will of course need to take a formal clearance from the government,” BCCI spokesman Rajiv Shukla told AFP. “But I have spoken to both the home ministry and the external affairs ministry and we have no doubt the tour will take place.” The rivals have not played a series since Pakistan’s tour of India in 2007, after cricket ties were snapped following the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, which were carried out by militants from Pakistan. Shukla said the BCCI was not interested in hosting Pakistan at a neutral venue and so slotted in the matches when England, also due to tour India later this year, return home briefly for Christmas and New Year.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, speaking to reporters in Chennai on Tuesday ahead of a tour of Sri Lanka starting this week, said his team will be ready to face Pakistan.
“Now that the series has been announced, we will be ready for it,” he said. “As professional cricketers that is what we are supposed to do.
“The country’s name is at stake. We will try and win every game, especially if it is against Pakistan.”
Cricket ties have been the subject of discussions between the governments of both nuclear-armed countries, who have been holding regular meetings in a bid to improve ties and eventually thrash out a peace agreement.
The countries — where cricket is hugely popular — have fought three wars since independence in 1947. The Indian and Pakistani cricket teams have only met in international tournaments since 2007.
They clashed in the World Cup semi-final in the north Indian town of Mohali last year, a high-profile game that was attended by the prime ministers of the two countries. They also played during the Asia Cup in Bangladesh in March. Both matches were won by India.