Former players, including Sialkot Stallions captain Shoaib Malik, have welcomed BCCI’s decision to allow Pakistan to participate in the Champions League T20 competition to be held in India in October this year.

“It is a relief to hear that finally we will get a chance to compete with the best teams in the Champions League,” Malik told PTI.

The Malik-led Sialkot Stallions team has won the national T20 championship and super eights titles this season.

The star-studded Sialkot side that includes Imran Nazir, Rana Naved, Shakeel Ansar has been the national T20 champions in Pakistan six times.

The BCCI today announced that Pakistan would be allowed to send its national T20 team for the Champions League during its working committee meeting in Chennai.

The governing board of the Champions League that includes the South African and Australian boards will have to ratify the BCCI recommendation at its meeting later this month.

Although the Sialkot team was due to take part in the first Champions League in 2008 and some of its players had already reached India for this purpose, things didn’t work out when in the same month in November that year the Mumbai terror attacks took place.

The attacks led to India suspending its bilateral cricket ties with Pakistan and since than Pakistani players have neither been invited for the Indian Premier League nor for the Champions League.

The domestic T20 champions from Test playing nations compete in the Champions League.

Malik said that he had been praying and hoping for a break this year.

“The ice has finally been broken and I am delighted that finally our team will get a chance to play in the tournament in India,” the former Pakistan captain said.

He said that Sialkot team would play like the Pakistan team in India.

“It is a good opportunity for us to convince the Indian people about the great talent in Pakistan cricket,” Malik said.

Malik, who is married to Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, said for him India was like a second home since it was his in-laws place.

“I have been there regularly since my marriage and even before that and I know the Indian people love and support the Pakistani cricketers,” he said.

Malik admitted that there would be lot of pressure on the Sialkot team playing after such a long time in India. “But our team is capable of handling the pressure and giving a good account of themselves.”

Former Pakistan captain Moin Khan said the decisions taken by the BCCI were very positive and a step in the right direction.

“Hopefully in the next IPL our players will also be invited to be part of the T20 extravaganza,” he said.

Moin, who has toured India with the Pakistan team, said he knew that Pakistani players enjoyed playing in India.

“The passion and knowledge for the sport is very high in India and our players are very popular there. I just hope that very soon the BCCI also resumes bilateral cricket ties,” he said.

Former Test batsman, Basit Ali said he had been insisting all along that without Pakistani players the IPL was losing out on some quality players.

“It is good that the BCCI has decided to start off with the Champions League and now we can be hopeful the next step would be the IPL and then bilateral ties,” he added.

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