India may issue 10,000 visas for Pakistan~~s cricket tour

Published: Tuesday, February 1, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:India plans to issue 10,000 visas to Pakistanis wanting to watch their cricket team's first Test series on Indian soil in six years, a cricket official said.

"The foreign office has assured us full cooperation to make the tour a memorable one," said Rajiv Shukla, vice-president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Pakistan, whose last Test match in India was in February, 1999, are due to play three Tests and five one-day internationals during the seven-week tour starting on February 25.

"We expect some 10,000 Pakistani fans to visit India," Shukla said on Monday. "The government may run special trains and even special flights if needed."

The tour schedule has not yet been finalised, but one of the Test matches will be held in the northern town of Mohali, some 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the Wagah land border between the two countries.

Ahmedabad and Bangalore are scheduled to host the other two Tests, according to the venues proposed by the BCCI and awaiting the nod of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

The venues selected for the one-dayers are Kochi, Visakhapatnam, Jamshedpur, Kanpur and New Delhi.

A two-member PCB delegation ended their week-long visit on Monday after visiting all three Test centres and three of the five one-day venues.

PCB official Zakir Khan and security expert Sohail Khan, who did not visit Kochi and Visakhapatnam due to a lack of time, will submit their report to PCB chairman Shahrayar Khan later this week.

"It has been a very informative visit," said Khan, but declined to say if he had reservations on any of the proposed venues, especially Ahmedabad.

Ahmedabad is the main city of the western state of Gujarat where some 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in communal riots in 2002.

The two countries resumed bilateral cricket ties in March-April last year when the Indian team played their first Test series on Pakistani soil in 15 years.

The tour passed off peacefully with Sourav Ganguly's Indians winning both the Test and one-day series.

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