India-Pakistan series: Hopes fade as Modi government drags feet

By: Lokendra Pratap Sahi
Updated: 07 Dec 2015 11:22 AM
Calcutta: "I don't expect the Centre to give its okay for the proposed India-Pakistan bilateral matches in Sri Lanka...

"The fact that the Narendra Modi government hasn't yet responded to our proposal is indication enough, I think, of its thinking..."

Those were the words of somebody closely associated with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), in a one-on-one, on Sunday evening.

Apparently, privately, key officials of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have also more or less given up hope of an immediate revival of bilateral face-offs.

Publicly, though, the Shaharyar Khan-headed PCB has said it would "wait" till Monday to hear from its counterpart in India.

"It's not looking good for us. Sadly, New Delhi doesn't seem to be keen. Our Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif) has, for his part, already conveyed his approval," somebody in the know of things told The Telegraph from Lahore.

Bilateral cricket has been at a standstill, for the umpteenth time, after January 2013.

A couple of hours after one spoke to the well-placed sources, came news that the National Security Advisers and the foreign secretaries had met in Bangkok during the day.

The build-up to the meeting(s) had been absolutely hush-hush, perhaps on the directive of the respective Prime Ministers.

However, it's unlikely that cricket would have been raised in any manner, so it wouldn't be prudent to associate the meeting(s) in Bangkok with the possible resumption of action over the 22 yards.

Incidentally, Prime Ministers Modi and Sharif spent a few minutes together on the sidelines of the Climate Summit, in Paris, days ago.

That their meeting did not last long is another matter.

Even if some in the ruling BJP may not be averse to bilateral cricket with Pakistan, there's a feeling in a section of the BCCI that Prime Minister Modi probably doesn't want the ongoing winter session of Parliament to be rocked by a big decision on a non-political matter.

The Shiv Sena, which is opposed to resumption of ties on any front with Pakistan, is an ally of the BJP. So, trust the Sena, at least, to create a ruckus.

Other parties, too, could join in.

Clearly, when much bigger issues are at play, the MoU between the BCCI and the PCB, signed early last year, means little to the political Establishment.

Essentially, the MoU concerns the two Boards and no government would be influenced by whatever understanding has been reached between organisations specific to a sport.

The absence of a 'yes' or a 'no' from New Delhi is creating problems for Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) as well.

"It's coming to peak tourist season in Sri Lanka and the hotels where we've blocked rooms want answers on what is happening...

"Frankly, it's not looking good at all," a top SLC functionary pointed out from Colombo.

That was around 9.00 pm.

Hotel rooms have been blocked in Colombo and in Pallekele, for three ODIs and two T20Is.

The tentative dates are from December 15/17 to December 31/January 2.

Last month, BCCI president Shashank Manohar is the one who suggested Sri Lanka as the on-ground hosts.

That was placed before Shaharyar in Dubai, where the International Cricket Council is headquartered.

Manohar also heads the world body.

The suggestion was tabled after the BCCI made it clear that the UAE wasn't an acceptable venue and the PCB announced that playing in India was out of the question.

As the last set of matches were hosted by India, it's Pakistan's turn to act as hosts. Away from home, of course.

The UAE has been Pakistan's 'home' ever since the March 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore.

Courtesy: The Telegraph