Exclusive Interview: India & Pakistan must play bilateral series to break ice before ICC World T20: Zaheer Abbas


Qaiser Mohammad Ali


ICC president and legendary batsman Zaheer Abbas said on Wednesday that if India and Pakistan played their scheduled cricket series in December in the UAE, it would not only be the resumption of the bilateral competition after a long gap, but would also “break the ice” — crucially, before India hosts the ICC World Twenty20 early next year.

Pakistan will be a competing team in the ICC World Twnety20, scheduled to be staged in India from March 11 to April 3.

“If the two countries want to play with each other, they must play. And this is also the right time to play. It is so because India and Pakistan are playing the first match of the ICC World Twenty20,” disclosed former Pakistan captain Abbas in an EXCLUSIVE interview with jantakareporter.com on Wednesday. The ICC is yet to announce the detailed schedule.

“If they play a bilateral series before the World Twenty20, the ice will be broken,” Abbas emphasised.

India and Pakistan have not played bilateral Test series for over two-and-a-half years. The last time they clashed was when Pakistan visited India for three ODIs and two T20Is in December 2012-January 2013.

Abbas, 68, is currently in Hyderabad on the invitation from the Hyderabad Cricket Association. The legend was invited to distribute prizes at the end of the Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup, which concluded on Wednesday.

Abbas, as an individual too would be keen that the two countries resume bilateral series. This is because of his special affinity with India as his second wife Samina is from Kanpur.

The only Asian to score 100 first-class centuries, Abbas said that he would use his current visit to speak to BCCI officials, and try and convince them that the world wants to see India and Pakistan resume their bilateral series soon.

“Of course, I will talk to them. I am going to Mumbai from here [Hyderabad]. I will try [to speak to them] from there. I will also visit Delhi soon. I will try to assist as much as possible, though this is an issue of bilateral series between the two countries,” he pointed while speaking as ICC president and not as a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) rep. “The Ashes series is also played [and is popular], but when India and Pakistan play, as you know, it carries a different connotation for the entire world.”

Abbas specifically praised BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur and termed him “very cooperative”.

“I will surely try to speak to him on the phone. He is a very cooperative person. And we hope that good results will come out [of the discussion]. We [the ICC] can only hope,” said the Karachi-based Abbas. “I [as ICC president] am not a party in this issue of bilateral series. But the ICC wants to globalise the game in the world. If someone asks me a question regarding this, I will say only this. You cannot force anyone to do anything.”

Interestingly, Thakur had recently said that India could not play Pakistan when the neighbouring country is allegedly shielding don Dawood Ibrahim. “Dawood in Karachi. NSA wants to meet separatists here. Are you really serious about peace and you expect we’ll play cricket with you?” Thakur had tweeted last month.

Abbas also spoke on other global cricketing issues. On the ICC giving its nod to a veteran cricketers’ series being organised by the legends Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne in America, he said that it would only spread the gospel.

“See, cricket, whether it is played by veterans or others, remains cricket. So, cricket is winning. If the ICC has given permission, people will go to watch the matches and would enjoy. Mind you, cricket is played by very few countries, unlike football. So, naturally, if cricket spreads it is better for the ICC, it is better for the game,” he said.

Abbas said that ICC World Twenty20, which is to be played in in India, too would give a fillip to the game.

“Cricket is watched a lot in this part of the world; in fact, its followers are there all over the globe. But because of the huge population in India, which likes the T20 format, it is a win-win situation for the game,” he said.

The PCB is finally organising the Pakistan Super League (PSL), on the lines of the IPL, in Doha soon and Abbas feels that if players like West Indies hard-hitting batsman Chris Gayle play in it, it would only increase the tournament’s brand value.

“For the time being, no teams are visiting Pakistan [due to security reasons]. Let us see what negotiations take place. If Gayle and other players feature in the PSL, it’s very good,” he said.

The PCB is said to be in talks with Gayle, England’s Kevin Pietersen and New Zealander Brendon McCullum.

Abbas, who also successfully represented Gloucestershire for many years in the English county competitions, said that the PSL would create goodwill for the PCB.

“All the national teams are playing against Pakistan at the international venues. The Zimbabwean team visited Pakistan recently and played some international matches. These days, the situation has become better in Pakistan. So, the chances will be there that through the goodwill thus created teams would start visiting Pakistan,” he hoped.