The people of the subcontinent would be licking their lips at the prospect of a clash between India and Pakistan's cricket teams in the near future. But a tour by the team from across the Indo-Pak border seems unlikely in the near future due to the frosting of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Pakistan anyway have a packed schedule for 2011, with the World Cup leading into a tour of the Caribbean, for the first time in half a dozen years for a full series. The side is then due to visit Zimbabwe for a series in August before rounding off the year's itinerary with commitments against England and Sri Lanka. However, the venues for those series is yet to be decided.
The ICC has given Pakistan-India series icon status, similar to the Ashes, so that in one cycle of the Future Tour Programmes (FTP), three bilateral series should be played between the sides. But there is a concern within the board that the ICC has not pressed enough for contests to resume. An India series would be the most lucrative move for Pakistan. It is understood that feelers have been sent at state and diplomatic level to initiate cricket ties but in the near future, according to the Pakistan Cricket Board's chief operating officer Subhan Ahmed, a full resumption is off the table.
"If you look at our FTP for this year, we have such few slots between now and 2012 and where we have slots India is occupied," Ahmed said. "So if an opportunity comes it won't be a full-fledged tour, it might be in a small slot, a short tour."
In fact, Pakistan's commitments in the next year have put a number of potential series and tours in limbo. Zimbabwe were due to tour in Dec for a series of fund-raising games. That would be the first visit by an international side since the Lahore attacks in March 2009. But no suitable slot could be found. Ahmed said this month was a possibility but it clashed with the Islamic month of Muharram. The ICC task force's plan for a World XI visit to Pakistan, to potentially kick-start the return of international cricket to the country, also fell prey to a packed schedule.
"Trying to bring international cricket back to Pakistan is an ongoing process of negotiations that we have with different boards," Ahmed said. "But this process will be gradual. To change perceptions about security we will have to start with junior tours that will give confidence to other boards and only then can full-fledged tours begin."