Former India Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee died at the age of 93 at AIIMS, Delhi on Thursday.
Vajpayee was a famous politician, leader and a poet with brilliant oratory skills. He also loved sports and played a big role in promoting peace with neighboring countries like Pakistan.
Back in 2004, India Cricket Team went to meet the Prime Minister ahead of the series in Pakistan. Atal Ji gave a bat to the team with a message on it, ‘Khel hi nahi, dil bhi jeetiye- shubkamnaye’ (Not just win the game, win hearts too- Best Wishes).
It was India’s first full-fledged tour to Pakistan after 15 years. The Indian side led by Sourav Ganguly included players like S Tendulkar, R Dravid, V Sehwag, V Laxman, Y Singh, Mohd. Kaif, A Kumble, Z Khan, L Balaji and I Pathan.
The cricket series was one of the initiatives take by Mr. Vajapyee to promote peace.
Note: The Indian team were given a special visa for the tour.
The then team manager, Shetty remembers the occasion. “The tour happened just because of Vajpayee Ji. He wanted relations to improve and cricket was a mode of doing that. The BCCI decided to sent the team after the approval of his government,” Shetty told the media.
“Before we were to leave for Pakistan, we got a message from the PMO that the prime minister wants to meet the team. He spent an hour with the team and spoke to each and every member,” he said.
“There was a navy band in the garden which was playing patriotic songs. We presented him an autographed bat and he too gave us a bat.”
Atal Ji also said Sourav about the importance of the tour and asked the players to listen to a motivational song ‘Hum Honge Kaamyaab’.
India went on to win the ODI series 3-2 and test series 2-1.
Moreover, Shetty said that after India won the ODI series, Vajpayee called Sourav to congratulate him.
The 93-year-old was admitted to AIIMS, Delhi on June 11 due to multiple disorders. He was in critical condition for the last few days.