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July 10, 2017

India and Pakistan set to play baseball exhibition series in UAE

Gulf News on July 8, 2017

The UAE may play host to a three-match baseball exhibition series between arch-rivals India and Pakistan in the second half of November.

Syed Khawar Shah, Executive Director (West Asia), Baseball Federation of Asia (BFA), who made a brief stopover in Dubai after attending the BFA Congress and Executive Committee meeting in Taiwan last week, informed Gulf News that he has already set the wheels in motion for the exhibition series between the two neighbours. “We have been in touch with the right people and our next step will be to contact the UAE Government through the UAE National Olympic Committee [UAE NOC] so that we can get this exhibition series going,” Shah said in a chat at the Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD).

Termed the ‘Father of Baseball’ in Pakistan, Shah first introduced the sport to his nation in 1992. Since then, Pakistan have climbed the rankings as the fifth-best baseball country in Asia and 23rd in the world from the 154 registered nations with the International Baseball Federation (IBF).

India, on the other hand, have been making steady progress in baseball. They won the Presidential Cup Friendly Baseball Tournament held in Iran in September 2015. India beat the hosts 11-10 in the final after maintaining clean sheets against Iraq and Afghanistan. However, India are ranked much lower than Pakistan, and an exhibition series between the two neighbours can contribute a lot to the development of baseball in the region while boosting bilateral ties.

“From experience, a sporting series between India and Pakistan is always well-received anywhere in the world. Sports has nothing to do with politics and we want to go about organising this series in the best possible manner,” Shah said.

 “India rarely participates in Asian competitions, but this friendly series will help address that issue and we can perhaps have similar series in the future as well,” he added.

Shah further reiterated that cricket can help raise the status of baseball between the two Asian countries. “95 per cent of the people in Pakistan are in some way connected with cricket and the remaining five per cent practice all other sports. This is a severe imbalance and we need to address this issue while giving our youngsters better opportunities to practice other sports,” Shah observed.

“I think this series will be a good start. We want to do this in the best possible manner. The Amateur Baseball Federation of India (ABFI) has shown their willingness to participate in this series. Now, we have to get the required permissions at Government level in the UAE and make this a success,” Shah added.

“Over a period of time the UAE can also come aboard and we can further spread this sport around the globe. Baseball is so similar to cricket and I am convinced both our countries can make an impact in this sport.”