BCCI hopes for a miracle as obstacles galore

Published: Wednesday, February 16, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:India's cricket chiefs meet in New Delhi hoping to find a magic formula to dismantle numerous obstacles standing in the way of Pakistan's first tour in six years set to start in 10 days.

Venues have still not been finalised, broadcasting rights are embroiled in a court tussle, tickets are still to be printed and flights and accommodation have yet to be booked for the tour starting on February 25.

Worse, fundamentalists have voiced their anger at the visit and a few are threatening to disrupt matches.

"Wish there was an Alladin's lamp to sweep the problems away," said an official of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

"We have to manage in 10 days what usually takes months."

The BCCI will have to work overtime to ensure that Pakistan's first tour of India since 1999, consisting of three Tests and five One-day Internationals, goes off without a hitch.

The venues will be fixed on Thursday only after getting a confirmation from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) whether it is willing to play in Ahmedabad, the main city in the western state of Gujarat where at least 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in communal riots in 2002.

News channels reported from Islamabad on Wednesday that the Pakistan government had asked the PCB to play in Ahmedabad, but no confirmation was available.

The PCB had cited security concerns in Ahmedabad, but had no objections about playing in Mohali and Bangalore, the other two Test venues proposed by the BCCI.

Once the dates and venues are finalised, the BCCI will discuss awarding television rights for the series.

No one is absolutely certain as to which channel the series will be broadcast on, if at all.

Last September, the BCCI backed out of a four-year, 308-million dollar deal with Zee Telefilms, India's largest listed media company, after it was challenged in court by rival ESPN-Star Sports, jointly owned by Disney and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

The Madras High Court, which is hearing a counter petition by Zee, last week advised the BCCI not to finalise any deal for the Pakistan series till the case was heard on Thursday.

The series against Australia and South Africa earlier in the season were telecast by public broadcaster Doordarshan.

The seven-week tour follows India's first Test series in Pakistan in 15 years in early 2004.

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