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    Former Pak players hail revived cricketing ties

    New Delhi: The announcement of revived sub-continental cricketing ties might not have gone down well with former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, but former Pakistani players have given it a huge thumbs up.

    The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced on Monday that Pakistan will play three one-dayers and two Twenty Internationals in December-January. The two countries last played in a bilateral series in 2007-8.

    Pakistan batting great Zaheer Abbas said watching the series will help his countrymen forget about the other problems existing in the country.

    "Both the countries should be playing every year or so. The news that they would be playing now in December has made me very happy. People in Pakistan are very happy. The best way to forget all our problems is to play and watch sports. They are all eagerly waiting for the contest," said Abbas.

    "India have become a great cricketing power while Pakistan at the moment are not playing at home. Our team is not as strong as it used to be but India brings out the best out of us," he added.

    Former captain Aamer Sohail found it hard to hide his excitement.

    "I am very excited about it. It is great news that the ice between the two boards has melted. The emotions run high for the players in an Indo-Pak game. The 2011 World Cup semifinal was a one-off game. Now, the players will be geared up for the challenge."

    Another former Test captain and also a senior PCB official Javed Miandad said he was delighted to hear about the BCCI invitation.

    "I am really happy because I know for a fact that the PCB Chairman has been making hectic efforts to convince India to play a bilateral series. I am happy this is happening and it will be great for India and Pakistan but also for world cricket," Miandad said.

    Miandad, who has toured India as player and coach, said a tour to India was always special for Pakistani players as they were warmly welcomed in India.

    Asif Iqbal, however, sounded a word of caution.

    "I am happy that finally it looks like Pakistan and India will be playing a bilateral series and it is a good start but I would still urge a word of caution keeping in mind the relations between the two countries," Iqbal told a Pakistani news channel.

    He pointed out that there was still some time remaining before the series in late December.

    "I have always said Pakistan and India must play regularly. Unfortunately this has not happened. But I know for a fact that Indo-Pak matches are no less iconic than the Ashes," Asif said.

    "Eventually if regular bilateral ties are held it will help young players from both countries and also help improve relations on a broader level," he added.

    Former Test legspinner Abdul Qadir said, "I know that when cricket is played regularly between Pakistan and India it does have a positive trickle down effect on the people that is why I have been saying it is important to have Indo-Pak contests."

    Former Test pacer Sarfaraz Nawaz said Pakistan must also now start planning to host India at home. "If India comes, be assured other teams will also come. But for now it is just good news for the sport that we will be playing a bilateral series after such a long time."

    Pakistan's former International Cricket Council (ICC) chief Ehsan Mani said India-Pakistan contests could only be good for the game.

    "Any cricket between India-Pakistan can only be good for the game. Very unfortunate there was no cricket all this while. I am glad things are back on track and they would only get better from here on. Cricket is important in bridging barriers," said Mani.

    Earlier in the day, Gavaskar questioned the timing of the India-Pakistan cricket series and the need for reviving cricketing ties between the two countries when the Mumbai terror attack probe was still on.

    "Being a Mumbaikar, I would say yes. What is the urgency when there is no co-operation from the other side (Pakistan). When you get away with something you tend to do it again," he said.