Vinod Rai, the head of the committee that runs the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), has revealed that the Indian government is open to playing Pakistan but on neutral territory only, Indian Express reported on Sunday.
The BCCI, citing its government’s orders, has repeatedly refused to honour its commitment to visit Pakistan for bilateral series.
It even contemplated withdrawing and forfeiting its fixture against Pakistan in the World Cup 2019, although it did eventually go through.
Rai, who was appointed the BCCI’s interim president in 2017 by the Supreme Court of India, clarified his government’s position, saying: “On playing Pakistan, I think there is a government policy…that you can play on neutral territory, and not on each other’s… We are very clear in our minds that on neutral territory we will play any country.”
It remains unclear if Rai’s comments were in regards to just global or continental events or even the bilateral series.
He explained why he chose not to cave against the sentiments of the Indian public, which wanted to forfeit the World Cup group match against Pakistan.
“If we don’t play Pakistan (in the World Cup), we lose one point, two points, and that doesn’t matter,” he said. “But suppose Pakistan comes up in the semi-final and we withdraw. Isn’t that shooting yourself in the foot?
“We would be closing avenues for ourselves. Which, I thought, was an incorrect move. So I said, rather than shooting ourselves in the foot, let’s isolate them.”
The “isolation” Rai refers to is the letter written by the BCCI to the International Cricket Council (ICC), urging Test playing nations to sever ties with countries from which terrorism emanates — a tacit allegation against Pakistan for the infamous Pulwama attack.