Ijaz Butt off to India to revive cricket ties

LAHORE: Pakistan’s cricket chief Ijaz Butt left for India Wednesday to hold talks with his counterparts, apparently to revive bilateral ties snapped a year ago following the Mumbai terror attacks.

The Indian team refused to play a tour against Pakistan early this year amid heightened tension between Islamabad and New Delhi after the Mumbai attacks last year blamed on Pakistan-based militants which killed 166 people.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) had to re-draft the Future Tour Programme (FTP) after the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) complained of being marginalised in the post-2012 schedule, having no series with India.

The FTP, introduced in 2006, aims to provide a structured schedule of cricket for the 10 member countries.

PCB chairman Butt refused to disclose the agenda of his tour.

‘I am going to India, but at this point of time I am not going to make any comment and once things mature only then will I be able to speak,’ said Butt, whose tour is widely reported as an attempt to revive ties.

Butt last month said that the new FTP had Tests, one-dayers and Twenty20 matches with India.

‘Not only Pakistan and India, but the ICC is also making efforts to revive bilateral ties between the two countries as it is imperative that we play against each other in the FTP and we will discuss the option of neutral venues,’ Butt said.

PCB chief operating officer Wasim Bari also reportedly hinted India was willing to talk on playing Pakistan at neutral venues.

Three months after India cancelled its tour, international cricket was dealt a near-fatal blow when the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked in Lahore.

The March three attacks, which killed eight people besides injuring seven Sri Lankan players and an official, ended any hopes of Pakistan staging top level cricket in the foreseeable future.

The ICC was forced to strip Pakistan of its share of 2011 World Cup matches.

Even before the attacks foreign teams had refused to tour Pakistan because of security fears.

In the last 12 months, Pakistan played one-dayers against the West Indies and Australia in the United Arab Emirates. Pakistan will also play New Zealand in a limited over series in the UAE next month.

Pakistan were forced to move their home Test series to New Zealand late in November and will play two Tests against Australia in England next year.

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