Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram has urged India not to break cricketing ties with Pakistan, suggesting that both countries play a Test match in Mumbai, to show solidarity after the recent terrorist attacks in the city.
"Cricket is not on anyone's mind at the moment, but after three to four days, both countries must take a positive step," Akram told AFP. "I suggest Pakistan and India play a Test in Mumbai to give a clear message that we will not give in.
His remarks come amid unconfirmed reports that the Indian government had denied its cricket team permission to tour Pakistan early next year ,following last week's attacks. Tensions between the two countries have increased after allegations that the terrorists had Pakistani links, accusations Pakistan strongly denies.
"India is like a second home for me, so whatever has happened there has hurt everyone in Pakistan, including me, "said Akram. "But if this hits our relations and cricket, it would mean that we have given in to terrorists."
Akram can draw on personal experience: he captained Pakistan on their tour of India in early 1999, despite threats from religious fundamentalists in India that they would disrupt the tour. Pakistan drew the Test series 1-1 and won the subsequent Pepsi Cup tri-series, also featuring Sri Lanka, thus ending a ten-year drought where neither country had toured the other for Tests. They also won the Asian Test Championship match in Calcutta by 46 runs on the tour.
Though worried about the effect on the peace process between the two countries, Akram hoped the situation would improve. "Cricket means everything in the subcontinent. It has built bridges and has averted wars on several occasions. People love and worship cricket, so it would be a great loss if cricket is halted. I hope it isn't," he said.
India's tour schedule, from January 2009, was first put in doubt last month when the Indian government refused to grant permission to its junior hockey team to visit Pakistan due to security concerns. India did visit Pakistan in June-July this year for the Asia Cup, but concerns increased after the Champions Trophy, due to be held in September, was postponed following ongoing security concerns.
Pakistan have suffered from a number of postponements this year because of security concerns and if India don't come, it could leave Pakistan without a Test from December 2007 to June 2009, when they are scheduled to visit Sri Lanka.