New Delhi: What shone through former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s political craft, can be captured in the one line he told the Indian cricket team back in 2004.
Khel bhi jeetiye, dil bhi jeetiye, the late leader had told Captain Sourav Ganguly and his team on the eve of a cricket series to be played on Pakistan soil after 19 years.
India went on to win both – the Test series (2-1) and the ODI series (3-2). They also won hearts. Several cricketers from that lot have time and again spoken about the love and warmth they received from the Pakistani people on that tour, including the stories of free food, gifts galore and a lot more.
That is now fable.
The Indian team, led by Ganguly, was travelling to Pakistan after 19 years and reportedly around 20,000 visas were granted for fans to witness India play in Pakistan.
The side was star-studded -- Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Irfan Pathan among others.
The then Indian team manager Dr Ratnakar Shetty had then cited what happened when the Indian team met then Prime Minister Vajpayee.
“Vajpayee met the players for an hour before the team left (for Pakistan). He said that your motto on this tour has to be “khel bhee jitiye, dil bhee jitiye (win matches and also win hearts).”
Vajpayee then presented the Indian team captain, Ganguly, a cricket bat with a message, saying, “Khel hi nahi, dil bhi jeetiye -- shubhkamnaye.”
Atal Bihari Vajpayee died on Thursday, August 16 after prolonged illness. He was 93.