Exclusive: Pakistan ‘given permission to play cricket matches with India in Sri Lanka’

Pakistan’s government has paved the way for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) permission to play a series against India in Sri Lanka.

PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan. Arif Ali / AFP
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Pakistan’s government has paved the way for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to play host to a series against India in Sri Lanka. Unconfirmed reports from India suggest that the Indian government has done likewise for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

If that is the case it means, that a much-anticipated but shortened bilateral series between the two countries may finally go ahead in December, their first since December 2012. It will not, unfortunately for UAE fans, be played here, as was the agreement between the two sides when they signed an MoU in May 2014.

"The Prime Minister [Nawaz Sharif] has given permission for Pakistan to play cricket matches with India in Sri Lanka," the PM's spokesman and the federal information minister Pervez Rashid told The National.

Until late Thursday afternoon, the PCB had not received any official communication from the PM’s office. One official said that Shaharyar Khan, the PCB chairman, had “apprised” the prime minister – who is also the patron of the cricket board – of the meeting he had with his Indian counterpart Shashank Manohar.

[Osman Samiuddin: Answers on UAE's viability as venue for Pakistan-India only lead to conjecture]

That meeting took place in Dubai at the ICC headquarters last Sunday. Giles Clarke, the England and Wales Cricket Board president and head of an ICC Pakistan Task Team, was present at the meeting as a facilitator.

It had come about after months of effort by the PCB to get an answer out of the BCCI on whether or not they intended to honour their commitment to resume bilateral ties with Pakistan.

The BCCI finally agreed to playing a series, but insisted it would have to be played in India and not the UAE, for reasons they have yet to expand upon publicly. The PCB rejected that invitation outright, insisting that this must be played as a home series. In the run-up to Sunday’s meeting, the PCB said that the matter was now out of their hands and in those of the government.

The PCB described the meeting as a “fruitful” one but neither board, nor Clarke, has revealed the details of the discussions. According to the PCB, Clarke is expected to make a statement about it “in due course”.

At the time, sources close to the development told The National that Sri Lanka would play host, most likely for a limited-overs only series, of three ODIs and two Twenty20s.

On Wednesday, the PCB did release a brief statement, in which it said: “The PCB has informed the government of the talks in Dubai that were regarded as fruitful.

“The PCB has not asked for an NOC from government for it is the government’s prerogative to decide on the issue.

“Similarly, BCCI is also seeking its government’s views on these matters.”

In India, a senior BCCI official told reporters that the series is likely to begin from the middle of the month. “India-Pakistan series will happen tentatively from December 15 in Sri Lanka which will mark the resumption of cricketing ties between the two sides,” Rajiv Shukla told media.

India finish their series with South Africa on December 7 and are due to play a series of ODIs in Australia from January 12. That leaves a short window into which the matches must be squeezed and is the likeliest reason there will not be a Test between the two sides – they have not played each other over five days in nine years now.

The developments are no cast-iron guarantee that the series will take place, of course. The relationship between the boards and, indeed the governments, still contains too many variables for it to be as straightforward as that.