ICC moves in to solve row over Ahmedabad

Published: Tuesday, February 15, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:Cricket's world governing body has moved in to resolve the imbroglio over Pakistan's refusal to play a Test match in Ahmedabad during their first tour of India in six years starting later this month.

The dispute has delayed the announcement of the schedule even though only 10 days remain before Pakistan arrive around February 25 for three Tests and five One-day Internationals on their first full tour of India since 1999.

International Cricket Council (ICC) president Ehsan Mani is camping in New Delhi where the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will meet on Thursday to finalise the itinerary for the seven-week tour.

"We are working behind the scenes to come out with a solution and I am hopeful it will be sorted out within a few days," Mani was quoted in media reports as saying on Tuesday.

Ahmedabad is the main city in the western state of Gujarat where at least 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in communal riots in 2002.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has cited security concerns in Ahmedabad, but has no objections about playing in Mohali and Bangalore, the other two Test venues proposed by the BCCI.

India's main Opposition party, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), has urged the government and the BCCI to cancel the tour if Pakistan insisted on avoiding Ahmedabad.

"I hope Pakistan will play in Ahmedabad so that people to people contact between the two countries are enhanced," said BJP spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra.

"If Pakistan refuse to play there it will be better to call off the tour."

The Shiv Sena party also wants the tour cancelled, saying India should not play cricket against Pakistan in protest at what it said was Islamabad's support to militancy in the disputed Kashmir valley.

"We should be ashamed that even as Indian soldiers are dying while fighting in border areas we are eagerly looking forward to the series," the Sena's working president Uddhav Thackeray, son of party supremo Bal Thackeray, said in Mumbai on Tuesday.

ICC chief Mani, however, dismissed fears the tour may be cancelled and was hopeful the Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh's current visit to Pakistan would help resolve the imbroglio.

"The matter can get sorted out in the meeting of Mr Singh with Pakistan officials, who will voice their own concerns," Mani told the BBC.

"Security is an issue which cannot be handled by anyone except the government. Moreover, cricket and politics cannot be separated in this part of the continent."

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