Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Indian cricket

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away at 93 on Thursday, 16th August 2018. The beloved prime minister had won the Bharat Ratna award and was loved by the entire nation. He had one dream, for sports to unite India and Pakistan.

His dream and ambition to unite the two estranged nations through cricket led to the 5 ODI series, three Tests in 2004. This was the time when Sourav Ganguly led the team and was the first time after 19 years that team India toured Pakistan.

Before leaving for the tour, Atal Bihari Vajpayee met with the team and greeted all of them. Not only did Atal Bihari Vajpayee give the team an arousing speech he gave Sourav Ganguly a gift. A special cricket bat with the quote “Khel hi nahi, Dil bhi jeetiye – Shubhkamnaye” which translates to “Win not only the contest, but the hearts too – best wishes.”

Reports indicate that over 2,000 visas were granted to fans. The hardcore fans who wanted to see team India play in Pakistan after so many years. On the star-studded Indian team was: Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammad Kaif, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Yuvraj Singh and many others. The team was led by Sourav Ganguly.

Remembering Atal Bihari Vajpayee

“The tour happened just because of Vajpayee ji. He wanted relations to improve and cricket was a mode of doing that. The BCCI decided to send the team after the approval of his government.” Former team India’s manager Ratnakar Shetty said.

“Before we were to leave for Pakistan, we got a message from the PMO that the prime minister wants to meet the team. He spent an hour with the team and spoke to each and every member,” Shetty said remembering that day.

It was reported that after team India had won the ODI series, Atal Bihari Vajpayee personally called Sourav Ganguly to congratulate him.