Sunil Gavaskar optimistic about India-Pakistan series

Former Indian cricketer Sunil Gavaskar hopes the bilateral ties between India and Pakistan will resume soon Getty Images

Abu Dhabi: Feb 15, 2012

Batting legend Sunil Gavaskar on Tuesday said he hoped a window could be found to accommodate an India-Pakistan series, as tight schedules were stopping the arch-rivals from playing each other.

India suspended all bilateral ties with Pakistan in the wake of the deadly 2008 Islamist militant attacks in Mumbai, which New Delhi blamed on extremists based across the border.

But despite a recent thaw, with Pakistan declaring India “the most favoured nation” and both prime ministers vowing to improve relations, formal cricketing ties remain suspended.

Both countries are scheduled to play in 2013 under the International Cricket Council (ICC) Future Tours Programme (FTP) but India’s busy schedule has left no space for the ties to be revived.

Former India captain Gavaskar said his country’s tight schedule makes the imminent resumption of matches tough.

“Hurdles are very simply, the tight schedules which are there for India in particular are stopping the revival. India are absolutely tight up until 2014,” Gavaskar told AFP.

“I think if the ICC can convince other scheduled tours around India and Pakistan to be delayed then maybe it can create a window but honestly… it looks difficult even in 2014.”

Gavaskar, widely respected in both India and Pakistan for his superb batting, said any series between the two South Asian rivals needs proper time and length.

“Frankly, if you want to have a India-Pakistan series it can’t be one Test. It has to be a proper three Test, five one-day and two to three Twenty20. But I think the real connoisseur of the game wants India and Pakistan to play Tests,” he added.

People in both countries were missing the contest, while the cricketers were keen to play and prove themselves, he said, likening the contest to the age-old rivalry between England and Australia.

Gavaskar said the last match between the two countries in Mohali — the one day international World Cup semi-final in March 2011 — was memorable, not just for the electric atmosphere among the fans both inside and outside the stadium.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, attended the match at the invitation of his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh in a move seen as “cricket diplomacy” to improve fractured ties.

“There is that wanting on the part of the cricket supporters but their hands are tied for the reasons that the schedules are tight,” said Gavaskar.

“As former players we can only talk about it. It’s up to the administrators whose hands are tied because they need approvals from the respective governments.” (AFP)