ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Federation of Baseball (PFB) president Syed Khawar Shah has requested Pakistani High Commission (PHC) to issue visas to Indian baseball team, which is arriving to feature in the 13th West Asian Baseball Cup 2017, commencing from February 25 here at Pakistan Sports Complex.

In an interview with The Nation, Khawar said: “The Indians are ready to play in the mega event, which involves 6 teams from West Asia including defending champions and hosts Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq. All the arrangements to hold the event have been completed, but delay in issuing visas to Indian delegation may spoil all the good work done by the PBF.

“I have never demanded appreciation or even taken due credit for all my hard work, passion and my vast international contacts, but at a time when even the likes of Najam Sethi has admitted that they have tried their level best to invite international teams and players to play in Pakistan, but all their efforts failed to bear fruit, we still managed to agree international teams play in Pakistan for the second time in running as last time, we also hosted the championship in 2015. But if the Indian team doesn’t participate in the event, all our efforts will go in vain,” he added.

He said the Indians arrival meant a lot to Pakistan and neighbouring countries, while it would also send a very clear message to all that Pakistan is capable of hosting international events. “The arrival of Indian baseball team will certainly reduce the tension between the two countries and bring their people and players closer to each other. I request the Interior Minister and Prime Minister to look into this matter and resolve it.

“It will be a great set back to peace efforts and prove to be a body blow, if the Indian team fails to arrive due to non-issuance of visas. They are waiting in New Delhi to get visas and willing to come and play here. I am hopeful the timely intervention of the Interior Minister can resolve the issue and Indian team will arrive by today evening and participate in grand opening ceremony to be held tomorrow (Saturday) at 10am, where IPC Minister Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada will be chief guest,” he added.

Khawar said trophies, medals and certificates would be distributed among the top teams and individuals, while two teams would get direct berths for the Asian Baseball Games to be held in Chinese Taipei in September. “The top 8 teams of West Asia will fight for two direct Olympic places soon after the Asia Baseball Championship while the winner of the 13th West Asia Cup Baseball Championship will get ranking points as well.”

He was full of praise for the IPC Minister and PSB Director General for frequently visiting newly-prepared baseball ground, where the championship would take place. “I am grateful to IPC minister and PSB DG for helping us in conducting two-month long training camp of Pakistan baseball team and also providing us free of cost accommodation, meal and world class arrangements. I am quite sure that the event will be held in a professional manner and it will further enhance Pakistan’s credentials of a safe and sound place for conducting all-kinds of international events,” Khawar concluded.