New Delhi: One of cricket's greatest rivalries is all set to resume as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has invited Pakistan to travel to India for a One Day International and T-20 series in December. The invitation by the cricketing body assumes significance because the bilateral ties between the neighbours have been in cold storage since the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in November 2008.
The 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai not only altered its landscape, but also left behind a trail of devastation. And the fallout of the coordinated strike by terrorists from across the border also ensured cricketing ties between India and Pakistan were brought to a grinding halt.
However, it will change with the BCCI announcing that Pakistan will visit in December to play three ODIs and two T-20s. The mini series will be played between December 23 and January 9, 2013. While Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi will host the three ODIs, the two T-20 internationals will be played at Bangalore and Ahmedabad.
Reacting to the decision of the BCCI, Ministry of External Affairs sources said, "This is an in-principle decision of the BCCI and PCB. There remain security concerns. Both boards have to indicate the dates and locations for clearances including security issues."
Though no Ministry official came on record to say anything on the BCCI's announcement, in private they express their reservations citing Pakistan's failure to deliver on India's demands, including action against Mumbai terror accused.
Pakistan is yet to punish those involved in the 26/11 attack and that country has not conceded to India's demand for giving voice samples of the handlers and masterminds of the terror strike, they said.
The terror infrastructure across the border continues to flourish unabated while Pakistan-based militants groups keep sending their armed cadres to Jammu and Kashmir, they said.
The development did not appear to go down well with many other as well.
Former Indian captain and legendary cricketer Sunil Gavaskar said there was no urgency to invite Pakistan to play in the country. He said, "Being a Mumbaikar, I feel what is the urgency when there is no co-operation from the other side?"
The Maharashtra Congress too hit out at the BCCI over the decision. State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre said, "The country and the BCCI should be one. The BCCI can not go against country, and they should take a decision which the country wants."
The decision also provided some ammunition to the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to attack the government.
BJP leader Kirti Azad said, "It is not a problem with playing with anyone I just want to ask them that what new has happened. The government must answer this. We have provided all the evidences to them but they didn’t take any action."
"I accept that sports is a medium to improve ties but it cannot be misused… I don’t think it is a welcome step, this is a very serious issue," he further said.
The BJP also said that along with the players of the Pakistani cricket team, the terrorists involved in the 26/11 attack should also be brought to India.
BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said, "The Pakistan cricket team had come to India earlier for the World Cup. The team of terrorists involved in the 26/11 attack should also be brought to India."
However, the Home Ministry is yet to receive a formal communication from the BCCI on the proposed cricket series. However, a decision on extending an elaborate security cover for the visiting Pakistani team would be taken by the Home Ministry once it gets official intimation from the cricket board, officials said.
If the government takes a political decision, the machinery will implement it, they said.