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April - May 2005


India Sport Scene

Cricket: Indians Respond Graciously to Pak Hospitality

by Ramesh Seedhar


Indians have a chance to return the generous hospitality the country’s cricket fans received in Pakistan last year when some 10,000 Pakistan cricket lovers arrived for the India-Pak series 2005. Acknowledging that India tour of Pakistan in February-March last year perhaps did more for people-to-people contacts than any other political or social gestures, New Delhi has given the green signal to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to issue 10,000 visas to Pakistanis to witness the Feb-April series. All those who had confirmed tickets for the matches were issued visas. That was the same rule Pakistan had followed to issue visas to Indian fans. The Indians – players, fans, journalists, dignitaries including Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi – all came back with heartwarming tales of the abundance of hospitality and goodwill the people of Pakistan showered on them. The Indian High Commission held special visa camps in Lahore and Karachi. New Delhi has arranged to issue special car passes in some cases so that Pakistani fans can drive into the country for the test at Moali in Punjab, crosing the Wagah border checkpost. For those crossing the border on foot, there were special buses to ferry them to the stadium and take them back at the end of the match. Special trains were also operating from Atari to Chandigarh. Those coming to see the tests were given seven day visas.

Bal Thackeray Opposes Pak Series
Shive Sena supremo Bal Thackeray continued to oppose the series between India and Pakistan. Commenting on the series, he said, “I maintain that we should not play cricket against Pakistan. All those who want to play against them are shameless….since Indian soldiers are being killed every day on the Indo-Pak border, Indian should not maintain ties with the neighbouring nation.” Such futile attempts by Bal Thackeray diminishes his political stature in the country.

Former Pakistan captain and coach Javed Miandad urged the Shiv Sena to respect the Indian government’s decision to resume cricketing and political ties between the two countries, and play a responsible role in smoothening the process. The decision of the government should be respected, particularly when it is related to sports.

Harbhajan Singh, back from Australia after being tested for his suspect bowling action at the University of Western Australia Laboratory, was initially nervous and a bit concerned about his bowling action. He is now fit to be in the India's Eleven.

Pakistan's already depleted bowling attack suffered a major blow with pace spearhead Shoaib Akhtar pullingout of the upcoming test series against India , citing fitness problems. Shoaib’s pull out came a day after he was fined $500 and reprimanded for erratic behaviour during the tour of Australia, leading to speculation that the bowler’s withdrawal was a protest against the penalties imposed by Pakistan Cricket Board. The star-player, however, stated that his decision was based purely on concerns over the hamstring injury which he sustained during the Australian tour.

Pakistanis are scheduled to play three tests and six one dayers against India are already struggling in the bowling department with a host of fronline pacemen sidelined due to injuries. Tendulkar feels fine. He has not played since turning out for India in the last one day international against Bangladesh at Dhaka on December 27. There was fruther good news for India in the run up to the high-voltage series against Pakistanwith Irfgan Pathan, who also had been recovering from a side strain picked up during the Bangladesh tour.

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