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India-Pakistan T20 series in the offing: Report

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New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) India and Pakistan could play a short T20 bilateral cricket series this year, Pakistani media reported on Wednesday. This comes on the heels of unilateral ceasefire by both countries along the Line of Control (LoC) last month.

If this series takes place, it would be the first bilateral exchange between the two countries in over eight years. The last bilateral series was played in 2012-13, when the Pakistani team visited India for a short ODI and T20 series.

A report in Pakistani Jang newspaper on Wednesday quoted a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official as saying that their cricket board had been asked to “be ready” for a series with India, though no one from India has made any commitment on the series.

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“A PCB official said that while there has been no direct discussion with anyone from India, indications are there and we have been told to be ready for such a series,” said the report in the Urdu newspaper.

Interestingly, India skipper Virat Kohli during the recent T20I series against England had said that he has been told by the Indian cricket board that there were going to be a few more T20 series this year.

However, the Indian and Pakistani boards have said they have no knowledge of any development on the resumption of the bilateral cricket.

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A top Indian cricket official on Wednesday told IANS, “No, we have no information on India playing a series with Pakistan.”

Pakistan’s Geo TV quoted PCB chairman Ehsan Mani as saying that they have not been contacted by anyone for a possible India-Pakistan series and neither has he been part of any discussion with his Indian counterpart on the issue.

A source in Pakistan told IANS that the series could be held before the T20 World Cup that is scheduled to be held in India in October-November. If it happens, a window will have to be created for it, he said.

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The international cricket schedule is indeed tight. Indian players will get busy with the Indian Premier League, which begins on April 9 and ends on May 30. They then travel to England for the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand, starting June 18 at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. However, the Indian team will have to reach there much in advance to undergo quarantine.

India will have over a month free after the WTC final. So, July could be a possible window for the India-Pakistan bilateral series.

India then play a five-Test series against England in England, starting on August 4. The team returns after the fifth Test ends on September 14.

Again, the Indian team will have a month free before the T20 World Cup, and this could be another window in which the India-Pakistan series can be slotted.

Just about two years ago, around the time of the Pulwama terror attack in early 2019, the sporting relations between the two countries also became cold, so much so that India declined visas to two Pakistani shooters who were to compete at the New Delhi World Cup, which started just a few days after the attack in Kashmir. The Delhi World Cup was staged from February 20-28, after the Pulwama terror attack on February 14.

However, the thaw in the relationship of the two neighbouring countries has been visible in sports in recent times.

The grant of visa to the Pakistani skeet shooter Usman Chand for the ongoing shooting World Cup in New Delhi and the recently visit of a Pakistani equestrian team could be part of the thaw, emanating from last month’s ceasefire along the LoC.

–IANS

kh/qma

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