England concerns exaggerated: Official

Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2001, 23:15 [IST]
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New Delhi: England's cricket team should not cancel next month's tour of India as it would be playing at, "One of the safest venues in the world", a top Indian official said on Tuesday.
 Inderjit Bindra, president of the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA), which hosts the first Test at Mohali, said reports of security concerns surrounding the tour were exaggerated and unfounded. "Mohali is one of the safest venues in the world," Bindra told AFP. "We are only seeing the war on CNN, but there is no impact here. If Punjab could successfully host the West Indies at the height of Sikh militancy in the 1980s, there is no reason why the England match cannot be held." Doubts over the tour arose following the US strikes in nearby Afghanistan amidst fears of a backlash from Muslim fundamentalists. England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Lord MacLaurin said on Monday the tour would go ahead only if there was considerable improvement in the situation. Bindra scoffed at British media fears that the northern town of Mohali was too close for comfort to the war zone in Afghanistan. "We are 500-600 miles from the Afghan border, we have no Muslim community in Mohali, the airbase nearby is not being used for anything to do with Afghanistan, and we have a moat around the ground which no spectator has ever crossed," Bindra said. "We are ready to host England. Cancellation of the tour would send wrong signals. I see no reason why it should be called off." England is scheduled to arrive in India on November 14 for a three-Test series, followed by five One-day Internationals in January. Recent media reports suggest England is uncomfortable playing at Mohali and Ahmedabad, which host the first two Tests, although the third Test venue of Bangalore is accepted as safe. MacLaurin is expected to discuss the tour with BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya during meetings of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this week. Commenting on possible venue changes, MacLaurin said, "I'm sure that will be part of the conversation I will have with my Indian counterpart on Thursday and Friday. "If the situation is as it is right now then we would not tour," he was quoted as saying. "But can anyone tell me what the world political situation will be like in two weeks time." The ECB had received advice from the British government foreign office last week that Europeans in India should maintain a low profile. "But an England side in India is a very high profile side. The players are our crown jewels and we will not endanger them," MacLaurin said. Dalmiya, a former ICC president, refused to discuss the fate of the tour till he had spoken to MacLaurin. New Zealand last month called off a Test series in Pakistan and plans to host a One-day series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan also fell through.

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