Former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar on Wednesday proposed a three-match One-Day International series against arch-rivals India to raise funds for the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in both the countries, reported PTI.

The arch rivals have not played a bilateral cricket series since 2012 due to diplomatic tensions between the two countries. India last visited Pakistan for ODIs and T20Is in 2012-’13 while the two sides last played a Test match in 2007. The men in blue visited Pakistan in 2006 and have not toured there since. The two sides now only play each other at International Cricket Council events like the World Cup and and the continental tournament Asia Cup.

“In this time of crisis, I want to propose a three match series in which for the first time, the people of neither country would be upset at the outcome of the games,” Akhtar told PTI from Islamabad.

“If Virat [Kohli] scores a hundred, we will be happy, if Babar Azam scores a hundred, you will be happy. Both teams will be winners irrespective of whatever happens on the field,” he said.

“You are bound to get massive viewership for the games. For the first time, both countries will play for each other. And whatever funds are generated through this can be donated equally to the government of India and Pakistan to fight this pandemic,” added the 44-year-old.

With both countries in lockdown due to the pandemic, and cricket around the hold brought to a standstill, it is unlikely that such a series can happen anytime soon. However, Akhtar feels the sooner they are held, the better it would be.

“Everyone is sitting at home at the moment, so there will be a massive following for the games. May be not now, when things start improving, the games could be organised at a neutral location like Dubai. Chartered flights could be arranged and the matches could he held.

“It could even lead to resumption of bilateral cricketing ties and relations of both countries improve diplomatically. You never know,” said the man, who was dubbed as the Rawalpindi Express.

“The whole world will tune into it, so much money can be raised to deal with this crisis. In difficult times, the character of the nation comes forward.”

Akhtar also spoke about the need for both countries should help each other.

“If India can make 10,000 ventilators for us, Pakistan will remember this gesture forever. But we can only propose the matches. The rest is up to the authorities [to decide],” he is quoted as saying.

Recently, India cricketers Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh were came under fire on social media when they spoke to their followers about contributing to Shahid Afridi’s charity foundation which is doing its bit in Pakistan’s fight against the deadly virus. Yuvraj said the matter was blown out of proportion and Akthar echoed that sentiment.

“It was inhuman to criticise them. It is not about countries or religion at the moment, it is about humanity,” he said.

Akhtar has spent a lot of time in India as a commentator. He fondly recalled his days in Mumbai during the World T20 in 2016, the last time he came to India for work.

“I am forever grateful about the love I have received from the people of India. For the first time I am revealing this, whatever I used to earn from India, I made a significant amount there, thirty percent of it, I used to distribute among the low income staff who used to work with me in the TV,” he said.

“From drivers, runners to my security guys. I took care of a lot of people. I was like if am earning from this country, I have to help my colleagues also. I also remember visiting slums of Dharavi and Sion in the wee hours to meet people I worked with,” added Akhtar.

The number of coronavirus cases rose above the 5,000 mark in India on Wednesday. A civic body official in Mumbai, which alone reported 116 cases on Tuesday, said the city seemed to be in local transmission mode. Globally, the number of positive cases worldwide crossed 14.46 lakh, including nearly 83,000 deaths, according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University.

(With PTI inputs)