Politics and cricket must stay separated: Bedi

“India vs Pakistan is our Ashes. We must play it.” Former Board president Raj Singh Dungarpur uttered these words before India and Pakistan resumed bilateral ties in 1999.

Former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi expressed similar sentiments yesterday after the BCCI announced that a limited overs series will be held in December and stressed: “It is important that cricket and politics are separated. It is very sad that politicians from both sides kept the country divided in 1947.

Indian and Pakistani fans during a Champions Trophy match at Centurion in 2009. Pic/Getty Images

“Cricket is a binding factor and more than anything else, the present generation and the generations to come deserve to witness the excitement of India playing Pakistan on a cricket field. We shouldn’t deprive them of that. A lot many Pakistanis would have not seen Sachin Tendulkar in another couple of years’ time for no fault of theirs.”

The 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai forced the suspension of bilateral cricket. “I have all the sympathy for whatever happened in 26/11 for Mumbaites. But as a cricketer, I have limitations. There is nothing I can do about it honestly. That is for the ministers, politicians and home ministers in Pakistan to sort out,” said Bedi.

Never-ending issues
Bedi went back in time — even before Partition. “Vijay Merchant was deprived of not seeing Sir Donald Bradman. He wanted Bradman to come and have dinner with him. Although Bradman was at the Port in Bombay, he didn’t come out because he had some medical problem. I am going way back, but in all fairness, these issues like Kashmir and terrorism will carry on. They are never-ending. Now, these issues were not created by the cricketers were they? So let the politicians solve their issues and let cricketers give vent to their prowess and talent. Both nations will look forward to this.”

Bedi was captain when both countries resumed cricket ties for the first time in 1978 after a 17-year gap. India lost that series in Pakistan and it didn’t conclude without controversy. In the third one-day international at Sahiwal, Bedi conceded the match after his batsmen were pelted with persistent short balls.

Replying to Pakistan’s 205 in a 40-over match, India were 183 for 2 in the 38th over. Bedi was in no mood to dwell on that tour. “That was a different situation altogether. Ours was a goodwill tour to Pakistan. I was really looking forward to it until I went there and whatever happened happened… I don’t wish to recollect that tour. This is a different moment,” said Bedi. 

Political parties oppose resumption
Political parties, Congress and Shiv Sena opposed the resumption of Indo-Pak cricket ties. “There should not be any difference between what people feel and what the BCCI decides,” said Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre. Shiv Sena leader Ramdas Kadam said: “We should consider only after Pakistan clears its policy on international terrorism.” — Agencies

Pak welcomes cricket revival

Former Pakistani cricketers and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) welcomed the revival of sub-continental cricketing ties. Pakistan great Zaheer Abbas said: “People in Pakistan are very happy. The best way to forget all our problems is to play and watch sports. They are all eagerly waiting for the contest.” Former captain Aamer Sohail said: “It is great news that the ice between the two boards has melted.” 
PCB chief Zaka Ashraf in Lahore said: “The decision is great and we welcome it. Millions of cricket fans have their wishes fulfilled.” 

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