KARACHI: Former Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik, dubbed India’s son-in-law since marrying tennis star Sania Mirza, said on Friday he was delighted the rivals might soon face each other on the cricket pitch again.

The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Future Tours Programme has pencilled in India as hosts of Pakistan for three Tests and five One-day Internationals in March-April next year.

The tour remains subject to clearance from both governments, but would mark a breakthrough for relations that went into free fall after terrorists killed 166 people in the November 2008 Mumbai incident that India blamed on Pakistan.

“The prospect of Pakistan touring India for a cricket series is delightful and I am hopeful it will happen,” Malik, who led Pakistan on their last tour to India in 2007, said.

“Cricket has astonishing power to bring people of both India and Pakistan closer. We saw that in 2004 when Indians were welcomed in our country and they returned with a different perception of Pakistan,” added the 29-year-old.

“It was the same when we toured India in 2005. People of both countries eat the same food, speak the same language and wear the same dress, and everyone wants to watch Pakistan play India.”

Malik said he gets enormous respect and love in India, all the more so since his high-profile marriage last year.

“Obviously, after my marriage to Sania I get more respect and love, and there are hundreds of such marriages in India and Pakistan.”

Malik reckoned India, which has a population of more than one billion, playing Pakistan, home to 167 million people, is bigger than the Ashes, played between Australia and England.

“It’s huge, bigger than the Ashes because if you count the number of people watching, it’s very, very big, so world cricket also needs India and Pakistan,” remarked Malik.

An India team was due to tour Pakistan in early 2009 but the visit was cancelled as peace talks stalled between the nuclear rivals after the Mumbai attack.

The teams last met in this year’s World Cup semi-final in India at a match watched in person by the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers, Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani.

“That spirit should be cashed in on,” Malik stated, noting that he also wanted to regain his place on the team, having not been selected since last
year’s tour of England.

Malik has so far played 32 Tests, 192 one-dayers and 32 Twenty20 matches.


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