Fan Musharraf wants Indians to play in Pakistan
Published: Friday, December 6, 2002, 23:53 [IST]
Musharraf to urge ICC to restore Pak's home calendar
Rawalpindi (Pakistan): President Pervez Musharraf has told the International Cricket Council (ICC) he wants India to tour Pakistan next year and has assured security, officials said Friday. "I want the Indian team to visit Pakistan and entertain the public here. I am all for keeping sports and politics separate," Musharraf told visiting ICC president Malcolm Gray late on Thursday, the Pakistan Cricket Board said in a statement. "I want India to come here and I am confident that they will cross borders next year." Musharraf called himself "a big fan of some Indian cricketers" but said India must tour Pakistan before the Pakistani team would play any game in the neighbouring country. India and Pakistan have not faced off at cricket since May 2000 in a protest by New Delhi against alleged Pakistani support for an Islamic insurgency in divided Kashmir. India is scheduled to tour Pakistan in April and May for three Tests and as many Limited Over Internationals. Pakistan is set to make a return visit to India in 2004. Musharraf and Gray in their 80-minute meeting also discussed ways to bring back international cricket to Pakistan, amid security concerns after a wave of bloody attacks against Western and Christian targets. "I am not a big supporter of playing home series at a neutral territory and I don't feel that it should happen with India either," Musharraf said. "I am giving security guarantees to every foreign team visiting Pakistan. I gave security guarantees a few months back also but my assurances were not given the consideration they deserved," he said. Despite his earlier security assurances, Pakistan had to play its two home series against the West Indies and Australia on neutral grounds earlier this year. At Thursday's meeting, also attended by ICC president-elect Ehsan Mani and Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Lieutenant General Tauqir Zia, Gray said the ICC would try to persuade member countries to play here, according to the statement. "I ... have not felt under any threat but I believe the perceptions of the people (outside Pakistan) are wrong about this beautiful country," Gray was quoted saying. Observers say cricket ties between India and Pakistan could improve if Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee agrees to visit Islamabad next month for a South Asian summit.