Vol. 4 Num 76 Mon. August 11, 2003  

Cricket SAF Games bound!

The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Sunday suggested the inclusion of cricket in the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games as part of a move to end a deadlock between the two neighbours.

"ACC will officially request the South Asian Sports Federation (SASF) to include cricket in the SAF Games which we think can be stepping stone for the revival of cricket between India and Pakistan," ACC development manager Zakir Hussain Syed told AFP.

India snapped bilateral cricket ties with arch-rivals Pakistan over political tension in 2000 but recent efforts to normalise relations between the two neighbours have triggered hopes of ties being revived by next year.

"We are sure that cricket can increase the appeal of the Games to a great extent and besides Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh the four Test playing nations Nepal can also chip in," Syed said.

Pakistan last week announced it will stage the biennial SAF Games in January 2004 after withdrawing its right to host the game April this year, after becoming frustrated by repeated postponements.

The Games, scheduled to be held in Islamabad in September 2001, were first cancelled following security fears in the wake of the 9/11 terrorists attacks on the United States and the ensuing war in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Later Pakistan was twice forced to cancel the Games, first in March 2002 and then in March this year, over Indian refusals to participate.

Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) last month said it received a great boost to rescheduled the Games in Pakistan when their Indian counterparts supported them to host the regional sporting festival. Pakistan will now request the SASF to fix new dates for the Games in its meeting likely to be held in October this year.

The SAF Games events include athletics, badminton, boxing, football, volleyball, weightlifting, taekwondo, karate, table tennis, wrestling, shooting and swimming.

Hockey was included on experimental basis in the Games held in India in 1995.

"Cricket can have more representation in the Games and even the fledgling nation like Afghanistan can also participate in it," Syed said.