India scoffs at England~~s threat to play in Pak

Published: Monday, November 21, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:India's cricket chiefs have laughed off reports that England may warm-up in Pakistan ahead of their Indian tour next year to protest at the "humiliating" itinerary offered to them.

"Typically British, they think they can still divide and rule," a senior cricket official, who did not want to be named, told AFP on Monday.

The schedule for the March-April tour has Tests in Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Mumbai and seven one-dayers in outposts like Goa, Indore, Guwahati, Faridabad, Cuttack, Cochin and Visakhapatnam.

England, although satisfied with Mumbai, wanted to play other matches in traditional main centres such as New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata which have enough hotels to accommodate the large media contingent and fans expected for the tour.

The Indian cricket board not only declined to change venues, but also slotted two three-day practice matches at the start of the tour in Jamshedpur and Agartala, out-of-the-way towns without luxury hotels.

Britain's Sunday Telegraph reported that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) were "considering the diplomatic snub of playing their warm-up games in Pakistan."

"It would be a significant step by England in their feud with the Indian board, who have drafted an itinerary which can only be called humiliating," the paper said.

Indian cricket board official Gautam Dasgupta refused to take the suggestion seriously.

"We have told them we can't change venues because it is our policy to rotate international matches among the 21 venues we have," he said.

"We have also told them that if they have any objection they should write to us and we will discuss it.

"But so far we have not got anything from them in writing. All that is being written is newspaper reports."

ECB official John Carr and players' representative Richard Bevan met Indian officials in Kolkata last week.

Carr, who travelled to Pakistan afterwards to speak to the national team currently playing the second Test in Faisalabad, said he had not given up hope of getting the schedule changed.

"There is always a chance until the itinerary has been confirmed, and we have informed them we will be writing to them," Carr told reporters in Faisalabad.

"If the Indian board nominates those venues and, from a safety and logistical point of view they are okay, we would be duty-bound to go along with that allocation."

Jamshedpur, an industrial town in the eastern state of Jharkhand, hosted the last of its nine one-dayers against Pakistan in April.

Agartala, in the country's volatile northeast, has never hosted an international match.

A One-day practice game before the seven limited-overs games will be played in the northern Himalayan resort of Dharamshala, better known as the home of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

England will closely watch the outcome of the Indian cricket board's elections on November 29-30. Incumbent president Ranbir Singh Mahendra, a protege of former world cricket chief Jagmohan Dalmiya, faces a stiff contest from heavyweight politician Sharad Pawar.

Pawar's supporters are known to enjoy better relations with the ECB than Dalmiya.

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