Former prime minister and Bharat Ratna awardee Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who died on Thursday at the age of 93, wanted sports to play the bridge between India and Pakistan. Vajpayee, in a bid to bring warmth in the tense Indo-Pak relations, had restarted cricketing ties between the two nations. He had allowed the Indian team led by Sourav Ganguly to travel to Pakistan for a full-fledged tour after 19 years (five-ODI series, three-Test) in 2004.
Vajpayee, the then prime minister, had greeted the Indian squad before their departure to Pakistan and gifted the Sourav Ganguly-led Indian team with a special bat. The bat had a delightful quote “Khel hi nahi, Dil bhi jeetiye – Shubhkamnaye” ( Win not only the contest, but the hearts too – best wishes).
Interestingly, over 20,000 visas were reportedly granted to fans to watch a star-studded Indian team play in Pakistan.
The Indian side comprised of star players like Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Anil Kumble, Zahir Khan. The visitors India went on to beat Pakistan 3-2 in the One-Day Internationals and 2-1 in the Test series.
Vajpayee served as Prime Minister of India for three terms that began in 1996, 1998 and 1999. He was the first non-Congress, non-Gandhi Prime Minister to complete a five-year term.
He breathed his last at 5.05 pm on Thursday. Vajpayee was admitted in AIIMS on 11.06.2018 and was stable in the last 9 weeks under the care of a team of AIIMS doctors,” read the statement released by AIIMS.