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March, 2011:

Cranks News: Manmohan unveils new goodwill goodies for Pak

Orders inclusion of Chawla in the playing XI at Mohali

Pak reciprocates by retaining Akmal

New Delhi/Mohali: In a major show of goodwill and earnestness in building longstanding relationship with Pakistan, the Indian government today unveiled the most impactful of goodwill gestures: Ordering the inclusion of Piyush Chawla in the Indian cricket XI that will do duty at Mohali against archrivals Pakistan later today in the World Cup.

A spokesperson of the PMO told newsmen at New Delhi, ‘it will be the biggest present that the Prime Minister can offer when he goes on to meet his Pakistan counterpart on the sidelines of the World Cup clash between the two countries later today’.

He added: ‘If this does not underscore India’s magnanimity towards Pakistan, I don’t know what will? As a confidence building measure (CBM), this is the best of the best. ‘

Sources, in the know of the process that led to the government’s decision to order the inclusion of Chawla in the team, said: ‘once it was decided to politicise what was essentially a normal World Cup contest, it became imperative on us to go the whole hog and remove what little of serious cricket that could be left in the contest’.

‘When the top leaders of two nations meet, you don’t want side-kicks like Dhoni and Afridi grabbing the headlines. That would have been a diplomatic disaster,’ the PMO spokesperson said.

Confessing that getting the headlines when you have journalists like Barkha Dutt around is not all that difficult (“they are loyal enough to scroll ‘breaking news’ even when the Prime Minister changes his turban colour from turquoise blue to sky blue”), the spokesperson said: ‘Our intention, however, was to seize the moment in a manner that will be talked for years to come’.

Initially there were even suggestions that India should release Ajmal Kasab, but it was shot down on the grounds that he will not want it because already he is enjoying all the benefits entailed for a head of the State, the spokesperson said. ‘Actually, we realised releasing Kasab would spoil the cordial relationship between the two countries. Come to think of it, if ever he dies and happens to go to heaven, he will find it a bit of a letdown in comparison to his present status.’

We also realised that the occasion merited a cricket-based offer mainly because some event is happening now and newspapers seem to be full of it, the spokesperson said.

‘It was originally decided to order the Indian cricket team to include both Chawla and Santhakumaran Sreesanth, thereby truly reflecting India’s sincerity and large-heartedness. But we also came to the conclusion that if the two were indeed played in the team, it amounted to giving Pakistan a straight ‘bye’ into the finals. We did not want the public to feel cheated. After all, we needed the cricketing part, otherwise where will the two Prime Ministers meet?’ the spokesperson said.

The PMO spokesperson hoped that Pakistan understood and appreciated India’s grand goodwill gesture. ‘We expect Pakistan to match our magnanimity’.

Queried on what kind of reciprocal action was expected of Pakistan, the spokesperson said, ‘we just hope that Pakistan continues to play Kamran Akmal in the team’.

Elsewhere, in Mohali, reacting to the order to include Chawla in the Indian team, Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said: ‘Well, of course, it only vindicates our earlier strategy. Remembered we played Chawla in the earlier match as a confidence-building measure. Now the Prime Minister is asking us to include him precisely for that.’

Dhoni added that Ashwin would sit-out of the match as his confidence is already well built.

Meanwhile, it is also learnt that Indian captain Dhoni and Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi have decided to hold a special book-cricket match on the sidelines of the meeting between the foreign secretaries of the two countries.

If they can politicise cricket, why can’t we ‘cricketise’ politics, said the duo.

Book-cricket, for the record, is a hugely popular, high-action classroom sport (when physics or mathematics teacher is droning on).  Dhoni may be considered over-aged to play the game. Afridi, going by his certificates, is under-aged for that.

(Disclaimer: Read it today itself. It will have no relevance tomorrow).