India on Saturday invited Pakistan to take part in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament this year, breaking new ground in the stalled cricket ties between the arch-rivals. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which met in Chennai on Saturday, gave the go ahead to Pakistan’s participation in the tournament which features leading domestic Twenty20 teams from around the world.
“The BCCI has decided to invite a team from Pakistan to play in the Champions League to be held in India in October,” BCCI chief Narayanaswami Srinivasan told reporters after the meeting. “The BCCI’s recommendation will be forwarded to the governing council of the Champions League which is owned by the cricket boards of India, Australia and South Africa,” Srinivasan added.
India and Pakistan met in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh in March and the World Cup semi-final in India last year, but regular tours have been frozen since the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, blamed on Pakistan-based militants. Asked if this was the first step towards reviving relations with Pakistan, Srinivasan said: “Today, the decision is limited to the Champions League. I don’t want to say anything beyond it.”
Pakistani teams did not feature in the first three editions of the Champions League, an off-shoot of the hugely popular Indian Premier League (IPL), which began in 2009. Pakistani players have also been left out of the IPL after taking part in the inaugural season in 2008.
Skipper Shoaib excited
Sialkot Stallions are the current Pakistan domestic T20 champions. Sialkot captain Shoaib Malik welcomed BCCI’s move. “It is a relief to hear that finally we will get a chance to compete with the best teams in the Champions League,” Malik was quoted as saying by PTI news agency.
Sialkot were invited to the inaugural edition of the tournament towards the end of 2008, but it was postponed after the terror attacks in Mumbai in November.
Meanwhile, the working committee also approved a limited number of friendly matches to be played by IPL teams with associate and affiliate countries of the ICC, between June and August, subject to guidelines to be framed by the BCCI.