Shoaib Akhtar has said a series in time of coronavirus can go a long way in resuming India vs Pakistan bilateral ties. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
The coronavirus pandemic has stalled all cricketing activities in the entire world. The number of coronavirus cases in India has crossed 5000 with over 150 deaths while in Pakistan, the number of cases has crossed 4000 with over 50 deaths. Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, relations between India and Pakistan remain frosty with a recent encounter in Kupwara resulting in the death of five Indian soliders and five terrorists. Now, there is an interesting suggestion from the former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar. The 'Rawalpindi Express' has proposed a made-for-television three-match ODI series against arch-rivals India to raise funds for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in both the countries.
India and Pakistan have not played a bilateral series since 2012 while they have not played a full tour, including a Test series since 2007. Speaking to PTI from Islamabad, Shoaib Akhtar said, "In this time of crisis, I want to propose a three match series in which for the first time, the people of neither country would be upset at the outcome of the games. If Virat (Kohli) scores a hundred, we will be happy, if Babar Azam scores a hundred, you will be happy. Both teams will be winners irrespective of whatever happens on the field."
With the coronavirus cases in the country exponentially rising, Akhtar said this will be a TV-only clash with no spectators allowed. With both countries in a lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the games can only be organised when things improve. However, Akhtar feels the sooner they are held, the better it would be but could not tell how the logistics of such an initiative would be worked out.
"It can be a TV only affair. Since everyone will be watching at home, you are bound to get massive viewership for the games. For the first time, both countries will play for each other. And whatever funds are generated through this can be donated equally to the government of India and Pakistan to fight this pandemic. Everyone is sitting at home at the moment, so there will be a massive following for the games. May be not now, when things start improving, the games could be organised at a neutral location like Dubai. Chartered flights could be arranged and the matches could he held," Akhtar said.
Akhtar believes that playing this proposed series could result in resumption of India-Pakistan bilateral series. The coronavirus pandemic has given both countries the opportunity to help each other. "It could even lead to resumption of bilateral cricketing ties and relations of both countries improve diplomatically. You never know. The whole world will tune into it, so much money can be raised to deal with this crisis. In difficult times, the character of the nation comes forward. If India can make 10,000 ventilators for us, Pakistan will remember this gesture forever. But we can only propose the matches. The rest is up to the authorities (to decide)," Akhtar said.
India and Pakistan have not played a bilateral series since 2012 when they played three ODIs and two T20Is. (Image credit: Getty Images)
Following the attacks in Uri and the deadly attack on the CRPF jawans in Pulawama in 2019, India and Pakistan relations have been strained considerably. Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh were recently trolled for asking their social media followers to donate to Shahid Afridi's charity foundation which is doing its bit in Pakistan's fight against the coronavirus. Akhtar labelled this act as 'inhuman' but went on to talk about his fond memories of working in India during the 2016 World T20.
"I am forever grateful about the love I have received from the people of India. For the first time I am revealing this, whatever I used to earn from India, I made a significant amount there, thirty percent of it, I used to distribute among the low income staff who used to work with me in the TV," Akhtar revealed.
Akhtar also said he visited the slums in Mumbai and also helped people. "From drivers, runners to my security guys. I took care of a lot of people. I was like if am earning from this country, I have to help my colleagues also. I also remember visiting slums of Dharavi and Sion in the wee hours to meet people I worked with," Akhtar said.