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Thatscricket - News - Government wants Pak tour to be postponed

Published: Thursday, February 12, 2004, 18:59 [IST]
 
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New Delhi:India's first Test tour of Pakistan in almost 15 years, scheduled to begin next month, is in doubt because the Indian Government wants it postponed until after general elections, media reports have said.

Any delay, however, would mean cricket ties between the archrivals would be stalled for at least a year due to unsuitable weather between April and August and prior commitments of both teams thereafter.

The Indian Government, which had initially cleared the high-profile trip, wants the tour to take place after the Parliamentary poll expected in April-May, the 'Times of India' daily said on Thursday.

The Indian Government's advice, conveyed through non-official channels, had lengthened the odds against the series, the paper said in a front-page story.

The Kolkata-based 'Telegraph' newspaper, meanwhile, reported that Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani wanted the revival series to be put on hold since the Government wanted to "play a risk-free game till the polls."

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), it said, may have to defer the tour of Pakistan "not owing to a change of heart, but because New Delhi has issued an advisory against a trip in the lead-up to the general elections."

BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya said on Thursday that a final decision on the tour will be taken after a three-member delegation of the BCCI returns from Pakistan next Monday.

"So far I have not heard from the Government so it will not be right for me to comment on these reports," Dalmiya said. "We will have to wait till the delegation reports its findings."

The delegation, which is touring match venues in Pakistan to study the security and players' arrangements, includes a security expert from the Home ministry.

The 'Telegraph' said only Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee could save the tour, but added he was unlikely to intervene.

Vajpayee had so far refrained from expressing a view and it was unlikely that he would overrule Advani, who is recommending a postponement, the paper said.

However, Vajpayee would have to consider that deferment of the tour could affect his ongoing peace initiative with the Pakistani Government, it added.

When the Government okayed bilateral sporting ties with Pakistan on October 22 last year as part of an olive branch to Islamabad, Parliamentary elections had not been announced.

The BCCI, which had been pushing for resumption of cricket ties with Pakistan under pressure from the International Cricket Council (ICC), immediately agreed to play a Test series in March.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), which hopes to make 20 million dollars from the money-spinning series, was flooded with offers to sponsor what is regarded as one of the sport's greatest rivalries.

The Indian cricketers, who have just ended a gruelling 10-week tour of Australia, said they were willing to go to Pakistan provided adequate security was given to them.

"We are not worried about touring Pakistan but about the security," captain Sourav Ganguly said this week on his return from Australia.

Australia and the West Indies refused to play in Pakistan due to security fears after the US-led strikes in neighbouring Afghanisan in 2001.

New Zealand were forced to abandon their tour of Pakistan in 2002 after a bomb blast outside the team hotel in Karachi on the morning of a Test match.

But matches by Bangladesh, South Africa and New Zealand in Pakistan this season passed off peacefully.

Extras
'Government awaits security report from BCCI'
afp.com

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