External affairs minister Yashwant Sinha on Wednesday authorised
the BCCI to talk independently to its counterpart in Pakistan, signalling
the end of a four-year moratorium on bilateral cricketing ties.
The news was welcomed by BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya, who said
that the board had been ‘‘pleading’’ for resumption of cricketing
ties. And, though Dalmiya said ‘‘nothing was final’’ regarding the
tour schedule, industry sources say three Tests and seven ODIs have
been planned for a five-week tour beginning 26 February 2004 and
ending on 7 April.
The implications of this especially on the distribution front for
Ten Sports are huge. To gauge just how significant the development
is, one has to only look ahead to the upcoming tour of Australia
by India that kicks off early-December.
ESPN Star Sports has exclusive telecast rights for the series.
Not only is ESS expected to ramp up declarations from cable operators
big-time ahead of the series, but is expected to announce its annual
rate hike at that time.
Just how crucial is the cricket can be gauged from what happened
recently in Chennai, the only conditional access-driven metro at
the moment. According to cable industry executives, the biggest
short-term spike in set top box demand was when South Africa confirmed
it was going ahead with its tour to Pakistan. Demand will be multiplied
manifold when India heads Down Under (expected "slaughter of the
And if the industry is looking at the first big market-driven push
for CAS to tie in to the Australia tour, the even bigger push could
be when the India team heads for Pakistan.
Sena's Thackeray, VHP's Togadia slam moves to ease Pak ties
Of course all this is possible only if the politicians allow
the tour to go ahead. In a statement to the Shiv Sena mouthpiece
Saamna on Thursday, party supremo Bal Thackeray said cricket with
Pakistan was unacceptable.
Adopting a similar belligerant tone, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader
Preveen Togadia said that in April, "(Prime Minister Atal Behari)
Vajpayee had said it was his last offer of peace and India would
close all doors till Pakistan stopped cross-border terrorism. From
where has this new initiative come?"
"The government must halt talks for dialogue and prepare for
war," the VHP leader said.