Indian PM urges cricketers to bowl over Pakistan
NEW DELHI: India’s cricketers, in Pakistan for a five-week goodwill tour, were urged on Wednesday to bowl over their opponents both on and off the field.
“Play the game in the spirit of the game, and win hearts also,” Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee told the 15-member team as it left New Delhi for the first test series in Pakistan in 14 years.
The tour, which rekindles one of the oldest rivalries in the sport, is the most emotional expression of the new bid for peace between the nuclear-armed neighbours, who went to the brink of war over Kashmir in 2002.
“May you be the victors,” Vajpayee told the team before presenting them with a bat at his residence. But that could prove a tough task. India has never won a test match in Pakistan, having lost five and drawn 15 of their previous encounters. New Delhi banned cricket links with Pakistan three years ago due to tensions over Kashmir, the trigger of two of the three wars between the neighbours since independence from colonial rule in 1947. India accuses Pakistan of fomenting violence in Kashmir by arming and training Muslim militants fighting New Delhi’s rule in the region since 1989. Pakistan denies the charge and says it has done all it could to stop the Islamic guerrillas. Like most India-Pakistan issues, the cricket tour has been the subject of huge debate in India and was nearly called off last month after an influential section in Vajpayee’s government raised new fears over the security of the Indian team. But Vajpayee intervened to push the series through and Pakistan promised tight security for the Indian team. —Reuters