Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pakistan confident of India touring

There could still be no respite in India's schedule if the BCCI agrees to the Pakistan tour...

The Pakistan Cricket Board has sent the BCCI an official proposal for a short three-match ODI series to be played in Pakistan in March. Though the Pakistan board is confident the series will go ahead, a cramped Indian itinerary means the tour is still not a certainty.

The series has been under discussion between the two boards following the hesitancy shown by Australia in coming to Pakistan as scheduled in March-April. It was decided recently that Australia's tour - if it goes ahead - would be considerably shortened. Pakistan are now keen to utilise the free period in the first half of March.

"We have spoken to the BCCI about it and the tour is 99% done," an official told Cricinfo. "If Australia do come, it will not be over the same period as it was before, so we want that period to be used as well. The series will involve three ODIs, and we are aiming for it to start around March 12. For ease, the ODIs will be played in Lahore."

Though the Pakistan board is fairly confident of organising such a high-profile contest in such limited time, the BCCI is still undecided about the series. An official confirmed to Cricinfo that the BCCI had received the proposal. "We have received a proposal from the PCB. The board needs to decide yet. It depends on India's schedule then. Nothing is confirmed yet."

India's participation in the ongoing CB series only ends on March 7 at the latest - provided they qualify for the best-of-three finals - and are then scheduled to begin their Test series against South Africa on March 26. The official pointed out that fitting in a three-match series into this gap may be very tough.

Pakistan has been desperately trying to fill up considerable gaps in its FTP and the uncertainty over Australia's tour hasn't helped. But bilateral talks with boards and discussions in Kuala Lumpur have borne some fruit at least with the estimated addition of nearly 38 ODIs into Pakistan's commitments over the next two years.

As well as plans for a tri-nation series before the Asia Cup in June, New Zealand are also expected to visit Pakistan for a five-match ODI series in September this year, before the ICC Champions Trophy, which Pakistan is hosting. South Africa and Sri Lanka have also agreed to play five-match ODI series in Pakistan in 2009, but concerns over Pakistan's Test schedule remain.

Apart from three Tests against India in November-December this year, Pakistan have no Test commitments until November 2009 when they head to Australia.