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India, Pakistan should play more often: Ijaz

February 19, 2004 11:13 IST

Former Pakistan captain Ijaz Ahmed has suggested a simple remedy for the tension whenever India and Pakistan meet on the cricket field: make them play more often.

The 35-year-old Ijaz is leading a Pakistan invitational team against an Indian exhibition side in a goodwill match in the northern city of Patiala on Thursday, just weeks before India's first Test tour of Pakistan in over 14 years.

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"There are security concerns, fans are volatile and, all in all, an India-Pakistan series is very different from any other tour. You can't afford to lose," Ijaz said on Wednesday.

"But if the teams play more often, it will be treated like just another series and there'll be less pressure on players."

India and Pakistan played their last full series in India in 1999 but the Indian government then banned all bilateral cricket between the neighbours because of political tensions.

Relations between the countries have improved since last year with bilateral contacts re-established, transport links restored and a ceasefire announced in Kashmir. The cricket tour is seen as another symbol of this thaw in relations.

"People in Pakistan are waiting for the Indian team with bated breath," Ijaz said. "They will get a huge reception. These are times when the countries are becoming friends, so the welcome will be even warmer than usual."

Ijaz thinks India will have a slight edge against an inexperienced Pakistan side in the three Tests and five one-day internationals starting in early March.

"When I played cricket, if we got Sachin Tendulkar out we knew half the battle was won," Ijaz said. "But now, like the Indians showed in Australia, they have five or six players of Tendulkar's class in the team. Their team is among the best in the world."

India drew a four-Test series in Australia 1-1 this year despite predictions of a 4-0 whitewash by the world champions.

Ijaz said Pakistan would lack experience following the retirements of players like all rounder Wasim Akram and opening batsman Saeed Anwar.

"We have Yasir Hameed, Imran Farhat and Taufeeq Umar but they're young and have scored runs only against ordinary attacks," he said. "The real test will come against India."

He said the only man who could turn the tables on India was Shoaib Akhtar, widely regarded as the world's fastest bowler.

"The Indians had better watch out for Shoaib, he always has a few surprises for them," Ijaz said.

Shoaib stunned India in his only previous Test against them in 1999 in Calcutta, bowling out Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid with consecutive balls to lead Pakistan to victory.

Kunal Pradhan
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