Gilani to speak to Manmohan

Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: Amid apprehensions that India might cancel its January 2009 cricket tour of Pakistan based on concerns over security, its prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani says he will make a “personal request” to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to give the go-ahead to the tour and has promised the Indian team all the necessary security arrangements.

According to the state-owned Associated Press of Pakistan, Mr. Gilani told Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ejaz Butt at a meeting between them on Thursday that “as cricket is loved by the people of both India and Pakistan, he would personally request the Indian Prime Minister to allow the Indian cricket team to visit Pakistan.”

Pakistan cricketing authorities are anxious about the fate of the tour, especially after the cancellation by a junior hockey team earlier this month. The team had arrived in Amritsar all set to make the trip to Pakistan, but did not get the awaited green light from the Indian government to proceed.

An Indian cricket official said on Tuesday that the tour would go ahead only if New Delhi allowed it. India is to play three tests, five one-dayers and one Twenty-20 match in Pakistan.

The newly reconstituted Pakistan Cricket Board is pinning its hopes on this tour to revive its fortunes after other cancellations. Former test cricketer Aamir Sohail said recently that the PCB was in dire straits and could go bankrupt if India cancelled its tour.

Furthermore, over the last two years, the PCB has been through one controversy after another, involving top officials or the country’s star cricketers, and is eager to turn the page with a good home series.

The Pakistan government also believes that the visit by the Indian cricket team, which includes players with multi-million price tags attached to them, could be projected as a vote of confidence in the country’s security situation.

Mr. Gilani said the Indian government would be “provided assurance regarding their security concerns” about the cricket tour.

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