After weeks and indeed months of negotiations involving both the cricketing and political powers of India and Pakistan, it appears that a historic bilateral series between the two fierce rivals will not now go ahead this month. The cricket boards of the two countries had given the green light for a first series since India stalled cricketing ties following the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008. Pakistan’s government had also provided the all clear, yet India’s representatives appear to have shut down the prospects of even a shortened series played in a neutral setting in Sri Lanka.
“We were hopeful that [Indian foreign minister] Sushma Swaraj’s visit will make things better but it did not happen,” Pakistan Cricket board chairman Shahryar Khan was quoted as saying by Waqt News.
“We wanted to play, but India did not respond positively. It is already too late to organize the series and we don’t have time for the series anyway,” he said referring to the proposed series in Sri Lanka where the teams were expected to play three ODIs and T20 Internationals.”
India and Pakistan had last year signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Cricket Council (ICC) to play six series between 2015 and 2023. And Pakistan were due to host the first of those between December and January. But after India refused to travel to the Pakistan team’s adopted home of the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka was suggested as an alternative, with a shortened series of three One-Day Internationals and two Twenty20 matches proposed. That, now, too, appears to have fallen through. As it was, the schedule was incredibly tight, with India set to begin their tour of Australia on January 12.
And it was only on Monday that India completed their series with South Africa. After defeats to the Proteas in both T20 and ODI series, it was a positive end to South Africa’s visit for the Men in Blue. A thumping 337-run victory in Delhi gave India a 3-0 victory in the four-match Test series. While the matches were shrouded in controversy over the standard of the pitches, and the help they provided to spin bowling, it was a significant success over the No. 1 ranked Test nation in the world. And it also moved India up to second in the ICC rankings.
For Virat Kohli, who was captaining India in a home Test series for the first time, the result was particularly welcome. But he will now go back to purely a batting role, as Mahendra Singh Dhoni resumes his captaincy of the limited-overs sides in Australia. And Dhoni will be hoping his team fare much better than against South Africa.
The tour of Australia will begin with five ODIs, before three T20s take place. The T20s will be particularly important for both sides, with the ICC World Twenty20 taking place in India, starting in March. India are in real need of some encouragement in the format having lost both of their T20 matches played with South Africa. Their form in ODIs has not been much better, and the last time India played Australia in the 50-over format was in the semifinal of the 2015 World Cup, which Australia won en route to lifting the title.
India schedule in Australia
ODI series (all matches begin at 10:20 p.m. EST)
1st ODI: Jan. 11 at the Western Australia Cricket Association Ground, Perth.
2nd ODI: Jan. 14 at the Brisbane Cricket Ground.
3rd ODI: Jan. 16 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
4th ODI: Jan. 19 at the Manuka Oval, Canberra.
5th ODI: Jan. 22 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
1st T20I: Jan. 26 at the Adelaide Oval (2:38 a.m. EST).
2nd T20I: Jan. 29 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (3:38 a.m. EST).
3rd T20I: Jan. 31 at the Sydney Cricket Ground (3:38 a.m. EST).