India calls off tour of Pakistan over fears for players' safety

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The Independent Online

India cancelled their scheduled tour of Pakistan yesterday, sparking uproar among Pakistani officials and prompting the threat of a cricketing boycott. India have not played a full Test series in Pakistan since 1989 and the tour, due to run from December until February, had been in doubt due to political tensions between the two countries over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

India cancelled their scheduled tour of Pakistan yesterday, sparking uproar among Pakistani officials and prompting the threat of a cricketing boycott. India have not played a full Test series in Pakistan since 1989 and the tour, due to run from December until February, had been in doubt due to political tensions between the two countries over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The Foreign Ministry said that the tour at a time when the Pakistan government had "unleashed a hostile campaign" against India would be inappropriate.

A statement said that India "calls upon Pakistan to create a conducive climate, which would enable India to have confidence that the security and welfare of the team would be ensured and that a tour would serve positive purposes." India had been due to play three Tests and five one-day internationals on the tour.

In Pakistan, the decision was met with shock, regret and threats of a complaint to the International Cricket Council, the game's ruling body. It also prompted an offer from Bangladesh to play Pakistan in place of the Indians.

General Tauqir Zia, the president of the Pakistan Cricket Board, said: "I am shocked that despite the Board of Cricket in India's willingness, the intended tour has now been aborted with the order of the Sports Ministry in India."

He warned India that Pakistan would be boycotting their arch-rivals, who they are scheduled to meet in the tri-nation event in Sharjah next April, that also involves Sri Lanka.

Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, accused India of politicising the sport. "It is a regrettable stand taken by the Indians," he said. "Cricket should be kept clean and politics should be out of cricket."

* Dhammika Ranatunga, the chief executive of the Sri Lanka cricket board, who has accused colleagues of irregularities in shortlisting companies for television rights, was suspended yesterday. Rana- tunga was relieved of his duties pending a preliminary investigation.

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