Zardari may watch Kotla ODI on Jan 6

The four-member PCB recce team did drop sufficient hints about the likely visit of Zardari.

New Delhi: Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and many VVIPs, including some key ministers, from the neighbouring country might watch the One-day International at the Ferozeshah Kotla here on January 6.

This was indicated by an official who was present at the meeting between a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) recce team, the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) and Delhi Police officials.

“Usually, between 900 and 1,100 policemen are posted for an international match at the Kotla. But for the ODI match against Pakistan more policemen may be deployed because a lot of VVIPs and VIPs are coming,” DDCA vice-president Suresh Chopra told MAIL TODAY. “The visiting delegation said that PCB chairman Muhammad Zaka Ashraf would surely come to watch the Delhi match and that some top Pakistani ministers etc. might also come along with him,” said Chopra, who usually looks after security arrangement.

Asked if Pakistani President or Prime Minister would join them, Chopra said the recce team didn’t confirm anything. “They just asked us to be ready with a contingency plan for hosting, maybe the President or some ministers, just in case they decide to come. As of today, they did not confirm their visit,” said Chopra, who skipped the 4 pm meeting with the Delhi Police, the recce team and BCCI officials.

The well established practice is to keep the visit of the top-tier politicians confidential for security reasons.

A source confirmed that the four-member PCB recce team did drop sufficient hints about the likely visit of Zardari. “Usually, when Indian and Pakistani leaders watch a cricket match together, they also take advantage of the occasion to discuss political issues. If Zardari comes, he might also have a meeting with Manmohan Singh and others,” he said.

Earlier, speaking to reporters after checking the facilities at the Kotla – players’ dressing rooms, ground, media box etc. — PCB general manager (media) Nadeem Sarwar said that he was not aware of Zardari’s visit.

“They’ve their own mechanism, the way they work. I don’t know when and who among the VVIPs would be coming for the matches,” he told reporters. “We’re expecting some VIPs to come here to watch the match here, besides spectators in big numbers at others venues. We’ve discussed with the associations, venue people and the security people on what needs to be done. We’ve requested the police of all five cities to make arrangements for police reporting near the stadiums.”

There have been reports, referring to Cricket Association of Bengal treasurer Biswarup Dey, that Zardari would watch the Kolkata ODI on January 3. But Dey on Thursday denied he had ever said that. “What I said was that the Indian President and Prime Minister would be in the city to attend a function around that time and the police should be making sufficient arrangements. I didn’t say Zardari would watch the match,” Dey told MAIL TODAY.

Meanwhile, Sarwar said that the bonhomie between Ashraf and BCCI president N Srinivasan continued to grow. “PCB chairman had sent special greetings for Srinivasan saheb, and he very warmly reciprocated that. And Srinivasan kept referring to PCB chairman as Zaka bhai,” he disclosed. “This series wouldn’t have been possible if the heads of the two Boards didn’t have an understanding. The credit goes to them.”

The PCB delegation, which included Sohail Khan, chief of staff/additional IG (operations/ Punjab), Ehsan Sadiq, director (security), and Usman Wahla, manager (international cricket operations), presented a memento meant for DDCA president Arun Jaitley.

But some DDCA officials not just failed to reciprocate the gesture, they were seen talking over phone about collecting proxies for the impending annual election. And even before the security meeting, with Delhi Police officials headed by Devesh Srivastava, Additional DCP (central district), commenced, some officials disappeared leaving the PCB delegation puzzled.