Leading article: A nation hit for six

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For a country as obsessed with cricket as India, the Indian cricket board's announcement that the final stages of the Premier League will not take place in the country is a serious blow.

For years, India has been seeking to "decouple" itself – as the phrase goes – in the eyes of the world from its troubled neighbour, Pakistan. Now it has been forced to recognise that the decoupling process is largely an illusion. The shadow of Pakistan's agony and of its growing Islamist insurgency hangs over India after all.

The decision that the matches could not take place on home turf was inevitable, however, once the government had declared that it could not provide the guarantees on players' safety that the board had sought. Delhi's position is that the security services would be overstretched if they had to cover the high-profile cricket matches as well as the general election in which voting takes place in phases from mid-April to mid-May. As a result, the IPL has been forced to sound out other venues in England and South Africa.

It is possible that most Indian cricket fans, following the matches on TV screens rather than watching them live, won't notice much difference. But it is a humiliating admission on India's part that it cannot guarantee the safety of its players from the long reach of the terrorist.

Inevitably, the decision will suggest that the determined foes of democracy, the same people who brought terror to the heart of Mumbai last November and who then launched a deadly assault on the touring Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan, have notched up another victory.

The casualty is not just India's own image as an Asian success story – a country powerful and rich enough to stand above the clamour and chaos afflicting some of its neighbours.

The disruption to the Premier League is also likely to aggravate tensions with Pakistan, which many Indians already believe is not doing enough to curb extremism. The fact that Pakistan's weak, embattled government says the extremists hate them far more than they hate India will be of little consolation. If lives have been saved, no one can for a moment dispute that the right decision has been made. But it is lamentable for all that, a no-win situation.

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