Vol. 4 Num 218 Mon. January 05, 2004  

India to cross the border in March

Indian cricketers will undertake a full tour of Pakistan for the first time since 1989 with three Tests and five one-dayers in the rival neighbour beginning in March, the cricket board announced here on Sunday.

President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India Jagmohan Dalmiya said the Indian team would leave in the first week of March and stay in Pakistan until the middle of April.

"The tour programme is yet to be decided but India will play three Test matches and five one-day internationals," he said. "We're not worried about the venues for the matches."

India played four Tests and three one-day internationals on their 1989 tour after which they made a short tour of Pakistan in 1997 when they played just three one-dayers.

The last Test series between the nuclear-armed South Asian rivals was held in India in 1999, when Pakistan undertook a tour despite threats from Hindu fundamentalists.

India refused to allow any bilateral cricket against Pakistan in 2000 following rising tensions over disputed Kashmir, although the arch-rivals played in multi-nation events such as the World Cup in South Africa last year.

A recent thaw in relations saw the revival of cricket ties in November last year, when an Indian under-19 team toured Pakistan for a four-nation tournament.

A second-string Pakistan side led by all-rounder Shahid Afridi also played in a triangular tournament for A sides here last month.

The announcement came as the leaders of India and Pakistan met on the sidelines of a South Asian summit in Islamabad amid hopes of a further thaw in relations.

Since April the two countries have restored diplomatic ties and transport links snapped in December 2001 after an attack on the Indian parliament.

Dalmiya said the Indian team would be getting a rest of about 20 days after their ongoing tour of Australia before embarking on the Pakistan tour.

"After the tour of Pakistan India will tour Bangladesh for two Tests and three one-day internationals as per the International Cricket Council calendar," Dalmiya said.

"The Asia Cup will be held in July and it will be followed by a triangular tournament featuring India, Pakistan and Australia somewhere in Europe but the venue is yet to be decided," he added.

Dalmiya said India would also play three one-dayers to be hosted by England in September.