Malik hopes cricket can ease Indo-Pak tension
Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik on Tuesday called for India's tour of his country to go ahead, saying "cricket diplomacy" would ease tensions between the rival neighbours.
The captain made his remarks amid reports that India will cancel its upcoming Pakistani tour after accusations that the terrorists that killed 188 people in Mumbai came from Pakistan.
"If we play cricket matches then the people of both the countries will have a chance to divert their attention and the situation will definitely improve. Cricket diplomacy has helped in the past as well in the same manner," Malik told reporters.
India is due to play a side game, three Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 match on in the January-February tour of Pakistan next year.
Before the attacks, India's Board of Control for Cricket was awaiting security clearance from its government to go on the tour.
As tensions grow between the two countries after the Mumbai attacks, reports have emerged in the Indian media that the matches will be cancelled.
Malik said cricket was the sub-continent's biggest passion and listed past examples of how the sport has brought India and Pakistan closer.
Pakistan's military ruler General Ziaul Haq used cricket as a tool of diplomacy by visiting India in the middle of the Pakistan cricket team's 1987 tour there. Pakistan also toured India in 1999 despite death threats from Indian Sikh extremists.
Malik said he hoped England's team would return to India to play Test matches, which were abandoned after the Mumbai attacks.
"If England agrees to tour India for Tests, it would be a very good decision because cricket must go on," Malik said.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has said it will wait for a security report before sending its team back for the two-match series.
Malik said his team must play some matches soon.
"We badly need cricket because we have not played a single Test this year and are anxiously waiting for the India series," said Malik.
Australia's refusal to tour Pakistan earlier this year due to fears over possible Islamic militant attacks left Pakistan without a Test during the whole of last year. If India refuses to tour, Pakistan's next Test will be in Sri Lanka in July 2009.