Thatscricket - News - Former stars lift curtain on Indo-Pak cricket

Published: Friday, February 20, 2004, 3:14 [IST]
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Patiala:Even as cricket officials struggle to work out the details of India's Test tour of Pakistan next month, veteran players from either side have already renewed the rivalry.

Ex-Internationals from Pakistan, led by Saeed Anwar and Ijaz Ahmed, took the field in northern Punjab town on Thursday in a friendly match against India's veterans captained by Mohinder Amarnath.

The Limited Overs game between the ageing stars drew almost 15,000 fans to the Baradari stadium. The atmosphere promises to be even more electric when the real battle starts next month.

Sourav Ganguly's men are due to play three Tests and five One-day Internationals during the March-April visit, India's first full tour of Pakistan in almost 15 years.

Even though the Indian Government on last Saturday ended weeks of speculation by clearing the ice-breaking tour, the respective cricket Boards have failed to reach an agreement on where the matches should be played.

The bone of contention is the southern metropolis of Karachi and the north-western city of Peshawar, where South Africa and New Zealand declined to play earlier this season because of security concerns.

Karachi has a history of ethnic violence and bomb blasts, while Peshawar is situated close to the volatile Afghanistan border areas.

While the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) wants two of the three Test matches to be hosted at these venues, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) would prefer to play only One-day matches.

The detailed itinerary is expected to be announced on Friday based on the recommendations of a three-member BCCI delegation that visited Pakistan recently. The delegation included a security expert from the federal Home Ministry, but Pakistan's former stars pleaded with the Indians not to worry about their well-being.

"The Indians will receive a warm welcome wherever they go because Pakistanis have been wanting this series to happen for so long," said Anwar, the former opener who now preaches Islam. "My advice to the Indian players is to come over without fear and enjoy the renowned Pakistani hospitality."

Mushtaq Ahmed, the former Test leg-spinner, said he expected it to be a well-fought series between India's seasoned batsmen and the young Pakistani bowlers.

"India may have the edge because of batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, but we have fast bowlers of the calibre of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami to keep them in check. "It will be a series worth going miles to watch."

Ijaz, who played in Pakistan's last Test series on Indian soil in 1999, was confident the revival of bilateral cricket ties will improve relations between the two countries.

"We should play each other more often and that will lessen the pressure on players and fans alike," he said. "I have always enjoyed playing in India and I am certain the Indian players will like it too in Pakistan.

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