Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
ZIMBABWE Cricket was back in the global headlines yesterday after Chevrons coach, Lalchand Rajput, opted out of their tour of Pakistan, on the advice of Indian authorities.
This forced the domestic game’s chiefs to scramble for an interim replacement.
The 58-year-old Rajput, who was engaged as Chevrons coach two years ago, is subject to the strict guidelines, which the Indian government prescribe to their nationals wishing to visit Pakistan.
Indian cricketers have not toured Pakistan, since they played a three-match Test and five-match ODI series in that country, between January and February 2006.
Pakistan cricketers have not toured India since they featured in ODI and Twenty20 series between December 2012 and January 2013.
The last Test tour by Pakistan cricketers in India was between November and December 2007.
Relations between the two Asian giants remain tense.
Zimbabwe Cricket confirmed yesterday that while Rajput had been granted a visa by the Pakistan Embassy in Harare, to enter their country, Indian authorities, through their embassy in the capital, advised otherwise,
“Zimbabwe head coach, Lalchand Rajput, will miss the Pakistan tour after his side arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday without him,’’ ZC said in a statement.
“The Embassy of India in Harare wrote to Zimbabwe Cricket asking that Rajput, who is an Indian national, be exempted from visiting Pakistan for the limited-overs tour in accordance with the travel guidelines stipulated by the Government of India for its citizens.
“The Embassy of Pakistan in Harare had issued a visa to Rajput.
“With Rajput unavailable for the tour, ZC has appointed Zimbabwe bowling coach Douglas Hondo to take charge of the team for the three one-day international matches and as many Twenty20 international games against Pakistan.’’
Yet, ZC officials had been optimistic Lalchand would accompany the Chevrons in Pakistan with their chairman, Tavengwa Mukhuhlani, confident the coach would lead his men in this ODI and Twenty20 series.
“Lalchand Rajput is our coach and we are keen to send him with the team there,’’ said Mukuhlani last month. “We will request the authorities there to facilitate his travel.’’
The coach, too, appeared certain he would be given the greenlight to accompany his men for the tour of Pakistan.
“We have already short-listed 25 players for the camp and the players are going through a rigorous practice session.
“I will get, at least, three weeks to work with the boys before we leave by the 20th October.’’
However, he was not part of the Chevrons touring party, which arrived in Islamabad yesterday, where they are expected to play three ODIs in Rawalpindi and three Twenty20 internationals in Lahore.
As the news broke yesterday, it produced a global media frenzy as many newspapers, news sites, radio and television stations gobbled on the developments.
The Hindustan Times newspaper of India quoted an unnamed PCB spokesperson saying this was just an internal matter which Zimbabwe Cricket had to deal with.
“The Zimbabwe Cricket officials had got a visa for Mr Lalchand Rajput from the Pakistan Embassy in Harare and, if he has not come, this is an internal matter between ZC and Mr Rajput,” the spokesperson said.
The newspaper also claimed the latest developments had raised concern among some members of the powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India.
“The concerns are genuine because the PCB is waiting for confirmation from the ICC, and BCCI by January-February, that the national team (of Pakistan) would be issued visas by the Indian Government for next year’s World T20 in India,” the Hindustan Times quoted their sources as saying.
The International Cricket Council confirmed in August that India will host the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021.
In April this year, the Times of India reported that lawyers representing the BCCI convinced the ICC that the Indian women’s national cricket team would not play Pakistan, in their ODI Championship round match, as they had not received the greenlight from the government.
“Our lawyers explained to the ICC that for every tournament, we take the permission of the government and it isn’t just about playing Pakistan,’’ a BBCI official was quoted as saying.
“So, if we don’t get clearance from the government, how can we play them? It was just about explaining the scenario.’’
The technical committee then decided the two teams would share points in all three series in the ICC Women’s Championship.
The ICC noted that both the BCCI and the PCB had done their best to try and have the matches played.
“With respect to the India vs Pakistan series, the TC (Technical Committee) concluded that the series could not be played because of a Force Majeure event after the BCCI demonstrated that it was unable to obtain the necessary government clearances to allow India to participate in the bilateral series against Pakistan, which forms a part of the ICC Women’s Championship,” the world cricket controlling body said in a statement.
PCB chairman, Ehsan Mani, reacted by saying this was something Pakistan’s cricket have to live with.
“We have suffered losses but they (India) are not in our thinking or planning,’’ Mani said in a podcast released by the PCB media department.
“It is like a pie in the sky situation. We have to live without them and we don’t need them to survive.
“I am clear if India doesn’t want to play we have to plan without them. Once or twice they have made promises to play against us but pulled out at the last moment.”
Former England captain, Michael Atherton, who is now one of the game’s leading commentators and analysts, this year said he believes the chances of India and Pakistan playing in a bilateral cricket series were minimal.
“I think the chances of India and Pakistan playing each other outside of ICC tournaments, even at a neutral venue, are minimal at the moment,” said Atherton, who was one of the high-profile cricket personalities who visited Pakistan this year to film the Sky Sports Cricket documentary “Out of Exile.’’
“They seem as far apart as ever from playing each other which is a great shame because it would be the one thing that would give Test cricket a massive boost.’’