Heavy security for India-Pakistan series
India and Pakistan were set Tuesday to begin their first cricket series in five years with a T20 match amid tight security in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.
At least 5 000 policemen were deployed at the Chinnaswamy stadium and along the one-kilometre route to the hotel where the two teams were staying. Bomb squads and sniffer dogs had been searching the area since Sunday, the NDTV news channel reported.
It is the first series between the South Asian rivals since the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, for which India blamed terrorists based in Pakistan. At least 166 people were killed in those attacks, which soured bilateral ties.
India and Pakistan last faced off in a two-team series in November 2007. They have competed against each other at overseas grounds in tournaments like the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September.
India and Pakistan have in the past resorted to cricket diplomacy to improve relations.
About 3 000 Pakistani cricket fans were expected to arrive in India over the next two weeks to watch the three 50-over and two 20-over matches. The series is scheduled to end January 6.
"This marks a new fresh journey of two great cricketing nations, and I hope there will be test matches in the future," Pakistani captain Mohammad Hafeez said in Bangalore.
Hafeez said expectations were always high when India and Pakistan played each other.
"We are here to enjoy ourselves with the great atmosphere India always has," he said.
The two countries have fought three wars since their independence from British rule, two of them over the Kashmir region. They are currently engaged in talks to resolve several contentious issues including border disputes.