Pakistan~~s tour of India, 1999, revisited

Published: Sunday, January 30, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Islamabad:Pakistan cricket team had drawn adverse attention for off-field behaviour by some players when abroad but here comes the story of a six-point code of conduct that bans on nightclub visits by its players during the historic tour of India in 1999.

Such was the emphasis on building relations during the that tour that diplomat-turned Manager of the team then Shaharyar Khan issued the edict to his players prohibiting questioning of umpires decisions, ban on sledging and to shave regularly "with no ugly stubble on their faces".

"There would be no drinking or night clubs" and the players were advised to visit schools, historical sites and meet under-privileged children. I expected good conduct, mixing with guests and a thank you to the host at the end of the function," he wrote in his just-published book "Cricket -- A Bridge of Peace".

Khan, who is now the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, also recollects the wonderful reception the team got throughout the country and how the former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani drove to the team's hotel on the day of arrival to break the news that Shiv Sena had called off their threat to disrupt the tour.

As the Pakistan International Airlines flight carrying the precious cargo touched down on January 21, 1999, the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi resembled a military airfield with "armoured personnel carriers and military jeeps bristling with armour" amid threats of attack by Shiv Sena. The APCs and military jeeps surrounded the PIA aircraft as it was parked in a distant corner of the airfield.

"There were no journalists, no immigration or customs checks, but immediately two identical coaches were lined up and we were whisked away to one of them," writes Nawabzada Shaharyar M Khan.

Khan, a direct descendent of a Bhopal ruling family and a reputed Pakistani diplomat who retired as Foreign Secretary in 1994, was specially chosen by former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999 to be the manager of the team for tour -- a job which Khan himself described as one of the toughest assignment in his diplomatic career due to prevailing India-Pak tensions.

"The exit from the airport was as dramatic as the entry as one of coaches carrying Indian policemen dressed in green blazers - the colours of Pakistani team, went on the normal route to the hotel with sirens blazing, while the other coach carrying Pakistani players "slinked furtively" through "heavily guarded labyrinthine back roads," Khan writes.

To re-assure the wary Pakistani players on board the bus were top Indian sleuth, Yashovardhan Azad, brother of cricketer turned politician Kirti Azad, and BCCI liaison officer, Amrit Mathur, who later ensured the eventful tour went off "smooth and masterly".

The Pakistan team, which was visiting India after 12 years' gap, had a more "emotional moment" to cherish with its meeting with the "iron man" of Indian politics. And the players were indeed moved to see the elder statesman's eyes turn "moist" while reminiscing his childhood days in Sindh province across the border.

As they reached the Taj Mahal hotel that was cordoned off to the public and to "even to its own customers", the team heaved a sigh of relief when told that Sena chief Bal Thackeray had relented and agreed to call off the agitation against the tour.

But the players were pleasantly shocked to know that the then Home Minister, L K Advani, who had flown to Mumbai to persuade Thackeray to call off the stir, was driving down to the hotel to personally convey the good news to them.

As the news of Advani heading to the hotel was announced, captain Wasim Akram, coach Javed Miandad and the rest of the touring party who had slipped into their salwar kameezes, hurriedly dressed up to meet the Indian Home Minister.

As the "boys" looked "bewildered at the unscheduled meeting", Khan introduced the players to Advani. "He was warm in his choice of words and gave us the government's assurance of security and welcoming crowds," Khan wrote.

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