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Title:Sri Lanka could host India-Pakistan cricket series

News Paper

NEW DELHI: First, the much-awaited bilateral series between India and Pakistan was supposed to be held in UAE. Then, the Indian cricket board (BCCI) insisted that it take place in India.

Finally, Sri Lanka has emerged as the neutral venue of choice to host the series, comprising three ODIs and two T20Is to be played between December 20, 2015 and January 3, 2016. Sri Lanka's cricket board (SLC) officials confirmed this development to TOI on Monday.

With BCCI president Shashank Manohar opposed to playing in UAE - Pakistan's adopted home - and Pakistan not willing to play its home series in India, the two boards came up with this compromise formula after Manohar and Pakistan Cricket Board chief Shahryar Khan met in Dubai on Sunday.

England and Wales Cricket Board chief Giles Clarke played mediator.

Sri Lanka was asked to host the series, which was accepted by SLC after its interim committee members met late on Monday. TOI had first reported on Sunday that Sri Lanka could be the neutral venue for the series. "PCB has sent a letter to SLC interim committee president Sidath Wettimuny asking f they could hold the series against India here. We had a meeting of the interim committee this evening and decided that it would be a pleasure to host both India and Pakistan in Sri Lanka. We'll have to get the tour cleared by Sri Lankan sports ministry, of course, since the interim committee works under them," SLC interim committee vice-president Kushil Gunasekera told TOI from Colombo on Monday.

Asked about the venues for these games, Gunasekera said, "The two venues that we have finalized are the Premadasa stadium in Colombo and Pallekele. Some domestic games are scheduled at the Premadasa in his period but we'll move them elsewhere."

While the BCCI is okay with this proposal, it has to be finally cleared by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the ministry of external affairs (MEA). The MEA has concerns over India playing Pakistan at a neutral venue. The first is regarding the security of players and the second stems from its delicate diplomatic ties with Pakistan given the constant provocation by Pakistani forces on the border.

PCB will also need to get the approval of its government. "Since PCB will need the permission of Nawaz Sharif before going official, Shaharyar Khan will have to seek his permission. Once he gets the green light from the PM, he will again come back to Dubai and intimate his decision to Clarke. Clarke is likely to officially announce the series on November 27," PTI reported from Dubai, quoting sources. "We had originally received a proposal for hosting three ODIs and three T20s but it was finally decided that only two T20s will be organized. The dates of the matches will be between December 20 and January 3," Gunasekera said.

With PCB approaching SLC, it is clear that the games will remain a home series for Pakistan. Sources said that Ten Sports - which has an ongoing five-year deal with PCB - will be the official broadcasters of the series. If the series takes place in Sri Lanka, it will be the first time that a Test playing nation has rejected playing a series in the UAE since it became Pakistan's adopted home after the 2009 Lahore attacks.