Sourav, Inzamam urge resumption of India-Pakistan series

New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) Former India captain Sourav Ganguly and his Pakistan counterpart Inzamam-ul-Haq have called for the resumption of bilateral series as it will improve relations between the two nations.

Speaking at a conclave on cricket organised by Aaj Tak news channel on Monday, Ganguly and Inzamam turned nostalgic as they remembered their playing days.

“Cricketing series between India and Pakistan should happen. It will be good for cricketing ties between the two nations and it will also help to normalize relations between the two nations. People of both countries want cricket should happen between the two teams, they love the players and love to watch the match. Therefore the matches should happen,” Inzamam said.

“There is a lot of brotherhood between the people of the two nations. When India visited Pakistan in 2004, they ate at several hotels and restaurants. But nobody took money from them. Even when they went shopping, Pakistan players used to personally accompany them and show them around. Even the shopkeepers did not take money from them,” he added.

The legendary batsman refused to comment on former Pakistan captain Imran Khan’s statement that Pakistan should not play in the World Twenty20 match against India in Dharamsala. “There is no security threat to Pakistan team. There has never been security issues, so cricket should happen,” he asserted.

The Dharamsala tie, scheduled for March 19, has run into controversy with political leaders alongwith serving and retired personnel of the Indian Army voicing their opposition. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has asked the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) not to hold the match in Dharamsala as countless martyrs and war heroes belong to that region.

Talking about the on-field rivalry with Pakistan during his stint as India captain, Ganguly said it was always an enjoyable experience to play against the arch-rivals since they had one of the strongest teams in world cricket at that time.

“We never had any enmity with them, but there was a strong competitive spirit whenever the two teams played. Pakistan had a very strong batting line-up including Inzy bhai. They had batsmen like Ijaz Ahmed, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Moin Khan. Their fast bowlers were among the best. It was difficult to pick out a weakness in their team. It was a great experience playing against them,” Ganguly said.

“Inzy bhai was Pakistan captain during my entire captaincy career. I am a fan of his batting. I remember during the Indo-Pak series of 2004, we found it extremely difficult to dismiss him. In the first one-dayer in Karachi , we made more than 340 runs. Pakistan lost two wickets for around 40 runs and we thought we would win. But then Inzy came along and turned the match around. If Moin Khan had scored seven runs in the last over, we would have lost that match,” he added.

Reminiscing about his experience of India’s tour of Pakistan in 2004, Inzamam said, “Whenever India and Pakistan play, there is always tremendous public interest. In 2004, we had a strong fast bowling unit. But the Indian batsmen played them quite beautifully. It was a superb series.”

“The 2004 tour of Pakistan was one of the most memorable experiences of my career. You will not get that kind of hospitality anywhere else in the world. I have never seen that kind of hospitality, both on and off the field, anywhere else. The public was very welcoming, the food was excellent. You have to play there to understand it,” Ganguly said.

“It is also a good learning experience for batsmen. Some of the pitches are difficult to play on and the bowling is top class. After winning in Karachi, we went to Lahore and Islamabad. Lahore is very beautiful. We still remember that tour,” he added.

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