Indian team to arrive in Pakistan on March 3

Published: Friday, January 30, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Islamabad:Brushing aside criticism over the delay in working out the schedule of the India tour next month, Pakistan Cricket Board on Friday said it was ready with the itinerary but waiting for approval of the venues by its Indian counterpart.

PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan said the schedule for the tour had been worked out in consultation with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and would be announced after the Indian security officials, scheduled to visit Pakistan next week, finalised the venues for the three Tests and five One-dayers.

"The tentative schedule has been finalised. We are awaiting the visit of Indian security officials to finalise the venues for specific matches," he said in a wide-ranging interview.

Discounting reports that the two countries had not yet worked out a match schedule even though the series was hardly a month away, Khan said it had been tentatively decided that the Indian team would arrive on March 3.

They would play a One-day practice match before the first Test expected to be played on March 11. The remaining two Tests would be played after a three-day break in between, followed by One-day Internationals.

Khan conceded that there could be some differences over venues as PCB wanted Karachi and Peshawar to host matches while Indians were wary about these two cities which were also boycotted by two cricket teams that visited Pakistan in recent past due to security concerns.

"Karachi and Peshawar have been deprived of cricket and should get their due. What we would like to absolutely make it clear is that Karachi and Peshawar have not had had any cricket," Khan said.

"People there (in India) are rightly concerned. But in our discussions with the Indian security team we will adjust in a spirit of give and take. That is another reason why the schedule has not been announced," he said.

Once again promising to accord the level of security being provided to US President George Bush and President Gen Pervez Musharraf to the Indian cricketers, Khan said this was one aspect which was being looked into by PCB in all earnest.

"They will be accorded VVIP security. The only flip side to it is that they cannot go shopping and sight-seeing. We are going give Indian team the security at the level of American President."

"I can understand your boys feeling nervous. Our boys are nervous too. Let your team come here and see I am sure they will relaxed," he said while recounting how the Pakistan team overcame anxiety when it last visited India in 1999 amid threats of Shiv Sena disrupting the series.

"But the moment we landed in Palam airport, we realised the level of security. The security was so tight that Indian security officials dressed in Pakistani blazers travelled in dummy bus through the normal route while our cricketers were taken through a different route," said Khan who had accompanied the team as manager.

"After seeing all this our boys felt very relaxed. The Indian team will feel the same way when it arrives here. I can assure you."

Khan also promised to prevail on the Pakistan Government to allow Indian fans to cross over from Wagah border to witness the matches in the same way as India allowed Pakistanis in 1999.

"Over 2000 Pakistani fans were allowed to cross into India by buses to watch the match between India and Pakistan at Mohali. The fans were given a warm welcome. They added so much colour and the atmosphere was great. At the end of the match we saw Pakistani crowd shouting slogans like India-Pakistan 'dosti zindabad'. We will try to allow as many Indian fans we can to witness the matches here," he said. The PCB chief also said he had received requests from about 160 Indian journalists to be given accreditation for the historic series.

PCB was also eagerly awaiting the Indian delegation to arrive in Pakistan and Khan said he was in constant touch with BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya with whom things were being worked out smoothly.

The Indian delegation, he said, wanted to visit on February 2-3 but their visit was put off by a couple of days owing to Eid holidays.

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