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The Rediff Special/Faisal Shariff
Indians positive about Pak tour
March 05, 2004
When there are few choices it is a great time to become an optimist.
As the Pakistan tour draws near, the mood in the Indian team camp is changing.
"Everyone says the tour could be dangerous," said a player. "So, maybe, it might be absolutely safe and a memorable one at that."
The Pakistan Cricket Board is rubbing its hands in delight at the prospect of the big bucks that will accompany the Indian team's flight to Lahore. Sponsors have gone berserk to ensure optimum traction during the tour. And politicians on both sides have ensured that their agendas, swathed in the banners of confidence-building measures, are fulfilled.
A Board of Control for Cricket in India official working closely on the tour said besides the huge amount of money involved, the Pakistan government is looking at the series as an excellent image-building exercise.
"One of the PCB officials revealed there is enormous pressure on the cricket board from the Pakistan government to ensure that this tour goes off well," the official said. "A successful tour will give the Pakistanis a high billing from the US and international community."
The Indian team might believe their fans were just fiercely loyal when they disrupted the Eden Gardens Test in 1999; the Pakistanis won't be in a position to offer the same excuse if a single stone hits the playing turf in the next six weeks.
"Of course, there is fear when fielding near the boundary," one player confessed. "It will be a distraction and there is no denying that."
On the last tour of Pakistan, in 1989, then manager Chandu Borde told rediff.com, a "steel kind of hook" was thrown at Mohammad Azharuddin, who was fielding on the boundary in Karachi.
Another player revealed he had to address some concerns at home before saying yes for the current tour.
The attacks on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had shocked the Indian dressing room in Australia last December. But assurances from the Indian and Pakistani governments have slowly helped change the players' attitude to the tour.
"Everyone says now is not the right time to go to Pakistan," one player told rediff.com "My question is when is it the right time? We have to go there either this March or next October. How does it matter when we go?"
But there are the sceptics too. "I will have to go for the tour or else it will be the end of my career," one player said. "After this, there will be two home series and I can bid farewell to my chances of playing for the country forever."
All-rounder Yuvraj Singh admitted he had some security concerns, but expressed willingness to travel if the tour went ahead.
"If soldiers can die fighting on the border," he said, "we can at least [play] cricket."
Yuvraj mentioned he is keen to visit the famed ancient university at Taxila and Mohenjodaro when he visits Pakistan.
Though that might not be possible, it illustrates that the players will take the plane to Pakistan with an open mind.
The four-member security team assigned by the Union home ministry and headed by Special Inspector General of Police Yashovardhan Azad to escort the Indian team to Pakistan could squeeze in an outing or two for the boys.
It really isn't too bad to be an optimist, is it?