India set fair for Pakistan

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The Independent Online

All that now stands between a resumption of the biggest cricketing conflict of all is a security delegation. India will send three men to Pakistan this week to assess whether it is safe for their team to visit their neighbours for the first time in more than 14 years.

Shaharyar Khan, the recently appointed chairman of the Pakistan board, is convinced that the tour, consisting of three Tests and five one-dayers, will go ahead. "We are on the verge of a historic moment," he said. "I am certain that the Indian board will be satisfied with our security arrangements.

"I quite understand that the Indian players are concerned. I was manager of the Pakistan team who went to India four years ago, and our boys were extremely apprehensive at the airport. But the Indian board provided first-rate protection and I am sure we can match it."

Shaharyar, whose draft itinerary for the March tour contains Test matches in the troubled cities of Karachi and Peshawar, said that his country had become much calmer in recent weeks. Jagmohan Dalmiya, the president of the Indian board, said he was extremely optimistic.

The biggest winner of the resumption of the biggest cricketing rivalry of all will be a television company. The Asian cable channel Ten Sports, are likely to make millions from the overseas sales of the rights. The Pakistan board confirmed last week that they would not try to renege on the agreement.

"When they bought the rights nobody was coming to Pakistan because of the volatile situation here," said Shaharyar. "Ten Sports bought them and I asked a two-man panel to examine the agreement. They were meticulous and the rights belong to Ten Sport. They can do what they wish with them."

The cash-strapped PCB now hope to make money through a lucrative series sponsorship. Shaharyar invited tenders for both series last week and will open them in public on 7 February. "I am determined that under my chairmanship business will be conducted on an entirely open basis. In the past, perhaps we haven't been as transparent as we might have been. We think the series should attract a host of offers from home and abroad. It is extremely high- profile in many countries."

He said the country was in a state of feverish expectation about the tour. The Indian government have banned the cricket team from touring since 1989, when the four Tests were all drawn. But three years ago in India, Pakistan won a thrilling rubber 2-1. Anil Kumble's 10 wickets in an innings in the Second Test was bracketed by two Indian second-innings collapses.