India have withdrawn from their tour to New Zealand, scheduled for February 2007, with the mutual agreement of both parties. Ehsan Mani, the ICC president, confirmed to the New Zealand Herald that the tour would not go ahead as planned.
The number of Tests and one-day internationals had yet to be agreed and it is now believed that the tour may not take place until as late as November 2008. Mani rejected the theory that this latest alteration was linked to a series of decisions taken by the new Indian board regarding their future itineraries.
Earlier this week it announced a plan to play Australia every year from 2007 to 2009 and said it wanted a four-year cycle of matches against England, even though these fall outside the Future Tours Programme. But Mani said the agreement over the New Zealand tour was "not an arbitrary decision", and that it was made before the new regime in India took over. "It was a mutually acceptable solution."
However, sources from within the BCCI told the Herald that the real reason behind this move was to avoid India suffering defeat in New Zealand ahead of the World Cup. In 2003 they went on the equivalent tour, losing the Test series 2-0 and ODIs 5-2. Although they then proceeded to reach the World Cup final it was not seen as the ideal preparation.
"The conditions in New Zealand are very different from West Indies," said the unnamed official. "There is no point in touring there because any loss will only raise pressure on the team like the last time."
Martin Snedden, the New Zealand Cricket chief executive, said the agreement to postpone the tour was reached last year after the ICC brought the World Cup forward by a month. "The flow-on effect was to leave insufficient time for the scheduled India tour during the mid-February to late-March 2007 window," he said. Snedden said New Zealand's build-up for the World Cup would not be "detrimentally affected" as they were due to play the Champions Trophy, the VB Series and the Chappell-Hadlee Series before the tournament.