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Of Atal Bihari Vajpayee And Cricket Diplomacy With Pakistan

The  wise words of Atal Bihari Vajpayee ring a bell even after two decades when the then Prime Minister coaxed the Indian team saying “sirf match nahi dil be Jeetkar aao” (not  only the match, but win their hearts too.) This was in 2004 when India toured Pakistan after 15 years. It was at the instance of Vajpayee — in 1999 — that the BCCI played host to a two Test series against Pakistan in Chennai and Delhi where leg spinner Anil Kumble took all 10 wickets in the second innings at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi. “If needed, play the Test series in an empty stadium,” Mr. Vajpayee told the then BCCI president, Rajsingh Dungarpur. Political exigencies have put a stop to full bilateral series between the two countries. Pakistan toured India in 2005 and 2007. The refrain from the liberals either side across the border is that sport should not be mixed with politics, but the Indian government for long has not allowed the Indian cricket team to tour Pakistan citing its role in abetting terrorism activities in India, especially the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai. There is a whispering quarrel going on now between the BCCI and the PCB, around India going to Pakistan for this year’s Asia Cup and Champions Trophy in 2025, and Pakistan travelling to for this year’s ICC World Cup in India. It will be interesting to see how things pan out in the coming weeks.