The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) wants both the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers to watch the third and final One-day International in Delhi, and it has asked its Indian counterpart to prevail upon the government to send a formal invitation for the PM as per the protocol.
The PCB has also told the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that in case the Indian government doesn't send the invite, it would on its own invite PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to watch the game at the Ferozeshah Kotla on January 6.
According to reliable sources, PCB chairman Muhammad Zaka Ashraf has spoken to BCCI president N Srinivasan in this regard.
Srinivasan is said to have told him that he would convey his message to the Indian government.
"The PCB wants Pak PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to come to Delhi and watch the ODI along with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh. The PCB chairman has spoken to Srinivasan, who has promised to forward his request to the government," a top BCCI source told MAIL TODAY.
A PCB source said that they are eagerly waiting for the BCCI to respond. "In case the Indian government doesn't invite the Pakistani PM, the PCB may itself extend the invitation to Pervaiz Ashraf for the Delhi match," he said. The PCB is free to invite the Pakistani PM for a match in India, but according to protocol, the invitation has to come from the Indian government. And when two Prime Ministers meet, it is more than watching a cricket match together.
When a PCB recce team visited Kotla on December 6, it had alerted the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) and Delhi Police to be ready to host President Asif Ali Zardari. The situation seems to have changed now, with the BCCI and PCB sources confirming the telephonic conversation between Srinivasan and Zaka Ashraf regarding the invitation to Pak PM. "There are now more chances of the Pakistani PM watching the Delhi match than Zardari. After all, the bilateral series is being resumed after five years, and to cement the bond between the countries, the two PMs should watch the match together," said the PCB source.
Last year, PM Manmohan Singh and his then counterpart, Yousaf Raza Gillani, watched the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final in Mohali. The upcoming five-match series will be played between December 25 and January 6.
Sources also said that Pakistani fans might not be present in the first three matches — T20s in Bangalore (Dec 25) and Ahmedabad (Dec 28) and the first ODI in Chennai (Dec 30) — as the tickets meant for them have still not been delivered to the PCB. "It's possible that no Pakistani fan — barring PCB's goodwill ambassadors like Hanif Muhammad, Zaheer Abbas, and Javed Miandad — will be able to watch the first two or three matches as we haven't received the tickets from the BCCI, which says they would be delivered only by Dec 18," said the PCB source.
However, Rakesh Patel and Javagal Srinath, secretaries of Gujarat and Karnataka associations, which will host the matches, said that tickets have been despatched to the BCCI as per the protocol while sources in Chennai said that the tickets haven't been printed. "If they are not delivered in a day or two, fans may not be able to complete visa and other formalities as time is too short.
The Indian High Commission in Islamabad has told the PCB that it'd need seven to 10 working days to process visa applications," he pointed out.
As per the Indian government's instructions, fans must possess valid match tickets as well as return tickets to Pakistan for applying for visas.
"Only after being assured of tickets can fans book flight tickets and hotels, which will take a few more days. India hasn't allowed fans to cross over the Wagah border by foot, and has made return ticket mandatory even for train journey," said the source.
The PCB source said that if fans eventually miss the matches, they would like to watch the Delhi ODI in return. "Those who would miss out on the first two or three matches would like to watch the Delhi game. We have told the BCCI about this," he said. DDCA sources confirmed that the PCB has made a demand for 5,000 tickets.