The India-Pakistan cricketing ties are "imminently possible" sometime "soon", and the cricket boards of the two countries are looking forward to restarting the bilateral series after fourand-a-half years.
BCCI president N Srinivasan said this at a recent meeting, giving a reason to cheer for millions of fans in the two countries, according to a top official who was present at the meeting.
Pakistani High Commissioner in New Delhi Shahid Malik also dropped strong hints recently when he said that an announcement was likely to be made "very shortly". "You are likely to hear something very shortly," Malik said in Lahore this month, raising curiosity.
Last year, when Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani visited Mohali for the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final, he and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh had favoured a resumption of the bilateral series, one of the most followed Test series in the world. Also, Srinivasan and Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Zaka Ashraf discussed the issue when they met during an executive board meeting of the International Cricket Council in Dubai last month.
At the marketing committee meeting, Srinivasan also informed the members that although no India-Pakistan series has been taken into account in the media rights tender, a "provision" for the same has been made for it.
"Mr Srinivasan told us during the meeting, which was called to discuss the allotting of the BCCI's media rights, that the resumption of the India-Pakistan bilateral series was imminently possible and that it could happen sometime very soon," the official disclosed to Mail Today.
"He must surely have had some basis to say that because he doesn't fly kites. It's more than likely that someone in the government has given him some assurance on the resumption of the series. He was very confident and specific, and used the words 'imminently possible', which makes us believe that there is something around the corner." The official also pointed out that the last week's announcement by Srinivasan that the Pakistani T20 champion team would be invited to compete in the Champions League T20 must have been prompted by the same "positive vibes" from the government.
The neighbouring countries have not played a Test series since December 2007, when Pakistan toured India for a threematch series. The cricketing links were snapped after the Mumbai attacks in 2008. India and Pakistan, however, have continued to play in multi-nation ODI tournaments.
Giving the context in which the Srinivasan spoke about the bilateral series, the official said that the issue under discussion was the tender for the media rights and the specific series that the bid winner would get to cover till 2018, the end of the six- year rights period.
"Mr Srinivasan said that since the ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP) has no India-Pakistan series it wasn't included in the media rights tender (2012- 2018) and till April 2020, when the FTP period ends," he said.
"He explained to the house that although no series between the neighbouring countries was finalised, a provision had been made to accommodate them whenever the Indian government allows the BCCI to host Pakistan or tour the neighbouring country.
He then emphasised that it was imminently possible and that too soon - and that both the cricket boards were looking forward to that day." In the media rights tender, which has been split into two distinct periods - from 2012 to 2014 and from 2014 to 2018 - the BCCI has based the number of home series on the ICC FTP.