India will make a move to bowl out Pakistan in the Maldives — much before the arch-rivals clash at Old Trafford in England on June 16.
Who will win the World Cup match is anybody's guess, but India is set to outplay Pakistan this weekend in the game of diplomacy to reach out to the Maldives — in helping out the Indian Ocean archipelago excel in cricket.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will visit Male on Saturday and Sunday, will assure Maldives' President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih all assistance to help the island nation make a foray into the world of cricket — building a stadium, providing kits and training its youths who have a penchant for the game of the 22 yards.
"There is a whole range of ways in which we (India) can assist (Maldives) in the field of cricket. One of them is building a cricket stadium under a Line of Credit or some other means of financial assistance, which we are ready to do,” Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said on Thursday, while briefing journalists about the Prime Minister's forthcoming visit to the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
The stadium is likely to come up in Hulhumalé — an artificial island south of North Male Atoll.
The International Cricket Council admitted the Maldives as an Associate Member in 2017. Maldives made its debut in Twenty20 International cricket against Kuwait in Muscat for the 2019 ACC Western Region T20 tournament. It, however, lost to Kuwait.
Solih, who took over as Maldives President on November 17, is known to be a cricket enthusiast. He was in Bengaluru on April 21 to watch the IPL match between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore. He has been playing a key role in bringing cricket cooperation up on the agenda of India-Maldives engagement over the past few months.
New Delhi is working on the proposal of Solih's government in Male to run some coaching programmes in India for young Maldivian cricketers — both men and women, the Foreign Secretary said. "They would also like us to do some training programmes in the Maldives, not only for players but also for coaches, scorers, umpires and match referees."
Pakistan too has been trying the cricket diplomacy to win young hearts in the Maldives. The Embassy of Pakistan in Male last month gifted kits to the Cricket Board of Maldives.
New Delhi, however, is now ready to outsmart Islamabad. India too provided kits and other equipment to the Maldives and supported a school cricket tournament organised by the Cricket Board of Maldives in April in addition to gifting about 1,000 cricket attire to school children and youths of the island. Board of Control for Cricket in India officials visited the Maldives last month to take stock of the sport in the archipelago and to assess the support it required.