~~India, Pak should consider playing at neutral venues~~

Published: Sunday, December 8, 2002, 22:56 [IST]
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Lahore: Pakistan and India should consider playing each other at a neutral venue, International Cricket Council (ICC) president Malcolm Gray said on Sunday, voicing regret that the sport was being used for "political ends."

"I think that the proposal of Pakistan and India playing at a neutral venue is a good one. I think that the two (national cricket) Boards and the governments should give this consideration and no politicians should get involved in the matter," Gray said. Gray is in Lahore to attend a two-day meeting of the ICC development meeting, but the focus of his trip has quickly switched to the cricketing ties between India and Pakistan. "The position of the ICC is that sports should not be used for political ends," Gray said. "It is regrettable that at the national level it seems to be used for political ends. Cricket can be a great unifier and can bring people of both the countries together." Pakistan and India last played each other two and a half years ago in Bangladesh at the Asia Cup. The two countries are expected to square off next on March 1 in South Africa at the World Cup, a match India is bound to play. Gray stressed that there were still "sporting contacts" between Pakistan and India, noting that Pakistan was playing in Chennai for the World Cup of blind cricketers. He acknowledged he had limited power to resolve the dispute. "The ICC can only use its powers of persuasion; ultimately the ICC doesn't have any legal or political powers and it is government that determines foreign policies." Gray said the ICC needed to be given more power. "Cricket was organised on a federal system and in other words the powers resided in the country and not in the central body, whereas in other sports like football power resided in the central body and goes downward." "Ultimately some of that power must be receded to the ICC. Ultimately that really has to happen for the sake of cricket to compete with other sports."

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