DateLine: 2nd December 2008
Former great Wasim Akram Monday called on India not to break cricketing ties with Pakistan, suggesting both countries should instead play a test match in terrorist-hit Mumbai to show solidarity.
The former Pakistan cricket captain made his remarks amid reports that the Indian government has denied its cricket team permission to tour Pakistan early next year following last week's attacks on Mumbai which left more than 170 dead.
"Cricket is not on anyone's mind at the moment, but after three to four days both the countries must take a positive step. I suggest Pakistan and India play a Test in Mumbai so to give a clear message that we will not give in," Wasim told AFP.
"India is like a second home for me, so whatever has happened there has hurt everyone in Pakistan including me," said Wasim, who holds the world record of most one-day wickets with 502.
"But if this hits our relations and cricket, it would mean that we have given in to terrorists."
He cited his own experiences when captaining Pakistan on a tour of India in 1999 despite threats from Hindu fundamentalists, playing the first cricket series between the two countries after a decade-long deadlock due to political tension.
"Cricket means everything in the sub-continent. It has built bridges and has averted wars on several occasions. People love and worship cricket, so it would be a great loss if cricket is halted. I hope it isn't," Wasim said.
India had been scheduled to play three Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 match during a five-week tour from January 4 to February 19.
The tour was first put in doubt last month when the Indian government refused its national junior hockey team permission to visit Pakistan due to security concerns.
If India cancels its tour, it would be the latest in a string of recent blows to cricket in Pakistan caused by terrorism fears.
Australia cancelled a Test tour of Pakistan in March and the International Cricket Council postponed the high-profile Champions Trophy there in September due to security concerns caused by Islamic militant activity.
Wasim said the Mumbai attacks have derailed the peace process between longtime rivals India and Pakistan.
"A week ago our President (Asif Ali Zardari) was suggesting there should be no visas for travelling between the two countries and suddenly we have this tragic incident and the whole thing is derailed," Wasim said.
(Article: Copyright © 2008 AFP)