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December 18, 2008
The Indian board has called off next year's tour of Pakistan, following a directive from the government that it was not feasible "in the prevailing circumstances". The series was in doubt following deterioration of relations between the two countries, a fallout of the Mumbai attacks which India alleges had links to elements in Pakistan.
The only option now to stage the series is to agree on a neutral venue, though a senior BCCI official told Cricinfo it was too early to take that call.
"We had asked the government to clear the tour and Pranab Mukherjee, the foreign minister, informed me today that they are not clearing the tour," Rajiv Shukla, the BCCI vice-president, said. "The BCCI had made it clear much earlier that they would go strictly by what the Indian government has to say, and now it's obvious that the tour is off. How can we go against our government's advice?"
Shukla said it was too early to say whether the tour would go ahead at a neutral venue. Officials from the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council have already offered to host the series at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, where the England team trained before reaching India for the current two-Test series.
The government directive does not come as a surprise, with public opinion in India, as well as that of former cricketers, administrators and politicians, largely against the tour. A series of newspaper reports after the Mumbai attacks quoted government sources as saying the tour would be called off and, last week, India's sports minister, M S Gill, said he was not in favour of the team travelling to Pakistan.
However, if the two countries don't arrive at an agreement to proceed with the series at a neutral venue, the BCCI will have to convince the ICC of its reasons not to tour, or pay a hefty fine.
In any case, Pakistan's chances of hosting the postponed ICC Champions Trophy next year have been hit hard as its status as the host depended on a security review that was to be conducted during India's visit. India were scheduled to tour Pakistan from January 4-February 20 for three Tests, five ODIs and one Twenty20 international.
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