London/New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) The Indian government was “not consulted” on donating the proceeds of Wednesday’s T20 warm-up game with Pakistan for the Pakistani victims of a terrorist attack in Lahore, Indian officials say. According to the International Cricket Council (ICC), the money will contribute to the education of youngsters in families whose members were killed or injured in the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. Six Pakistani policemen and two civilian bystanders were killed in the attack. A Pakistani umpire was also injured.
The ICC is, in fact, yet to think through how the money raised from Wednesday night’s India-Pakistan T20 match will be distributed or who will be responsible for this. Brian Murgatroyd, a spokesman for the ICC, admitted: “Details have not been worked out as to how the funds will be handled”. Murgatroyd cited that BCCI President Shashank Manohar had approved the initiative. In its original press release, it quoted Manohar as saying: “Cricket has a special power to bring people together. It is in keeping with the spirit of cricket that the BCCI will be supporting this cause.”
However, Manohar clarified to this correspondent that this was “a unanimous decision” of the ICC Board, of which BCCI is a member. He also washed his hands off how the money will be handled. He emphasised: “It’s an ICC event, the money will come from ICC’s coffers; BCCI is not involved in this.”
“This was not ideal,” a senior Indian diplomatic official said in London, while alluding to frosty ties between India and Pakistan in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks that New Delhi has blamed on elements operating from the neighbouring country.
The Indian government had distanced itself from the decision, saying: “It’s a BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) matter; BCCI is an autonomous body.”
“The BCCI is not obliged to seek our opinion. We have no locus standi matters like whom they give money to for charity purpose. It’s not a government body,” an external affairs ministry official said in New Delhi. “Our views were not sought,” he added.
Cricket camaraderie in the midst of chilly ties in the wake of 26/11 may surprise some, but it appears to have support from the establishment.
“How can we deny ourselves the pleasure of a good India-Pakistan cricket match?” Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon replied when asked by reporters about the T20 match.
Although External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna was circumspect, Sports Minister M.S. Gill was upbeat about the match, the first cricketing encounter between India and Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks. India sees cricketing ties as part of its strategy to keep people-to-people relations going despite ups and downs in its political relations. Unlike the attack on parliament in December 2001, India has not suspended bus and rail links to keep the flow of people-to-people contacts that it sees as the bedrock of a healthy bilateral relationship.