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India's cricket tour of Pak officially called off

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Sports Minister MS Gill have told BCCI President Shashank Manohar not to proceed with the tour taking into account the 'recent developments in Mumbai'.

cricket Updated: Dec 18, 2008 21:14 IST

India's cricket tour of Pakistan was on Thursday officially called off with the government refusing permission to the team to travel across the border in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, putting an end to the prolonged uncertainty on the fate of the series.

The Government's decision was conveyed to the BCCI President Shashank Manohar on Thursday through a letter which cited "recent developments as well as the overall circumstances prevailing at present" as the reasons for calling off the high-profile tour.

"The final decision has been taken. We have got the letter from the Sports Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs not to proceed with the tour", senior BCCI official Rajeev Shukla told PTI.

"The government has declined permission to go ahead with the tour taking into account the recent developments in Mumbai as well as the overall circumstances prevailing at present", Shukla said.

He said the External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Sports Minister M S Gill had also personally called up Monohar to convey the decision.

India were scheduled to play three Tests, five one-dayers and a Twenty20 match during their tour of Pakistan from January 4 to February 28 but the tour had been thrown into jeopardy in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks.

The BCCI had all along maintained that it was up to the government to decide on the fate of the tour.

"Now that we have received the letter, we will intimate it to the Pakistan Cricket Board," Shukla said.

There was intense speculation that the tour will be called off in the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage and top BCCI officials had privately admitted that there was no chance that the team will travel to Pakistan.
Even the Sports Minister Gill had gone on record last week that the team should not tour Pakistan under the circumstances, which was seen as a clear indication of things to come.

Even before the Mumbai carnage, some of the senior Indian cricketers were apprehensive of travelling to Pakistan because of the security scenario in the strife-torn country.

The cancellation of the tour has not only put a question mark on the sporting ties between the two countries but will also have a bearing on the 2011 Cricket World Cup being jointly hosted by the four Asian countries.

Pakistan was keen to play the series at a neutral venue in case the tour was cancelled but the BCCI said it had not taken any decision on such a possibility.

BCCI's Chief Administrative Officer Ratnakar Shetty said that the government's decision will not have any impact on the 2011 World Cup.

"It will not affect the 2011 World Cup, that's a different tournament," he said.

"We'd written to the government about the tour and we've just got the letter from the government that in the present circumstances the tour is not possible.

Asked if it was because of the fact that senior players were not ready to play in Pakistan, Shetty said "I am not ready to comment on that. It was upto the government to decide and it was not for the BCCI to decide.

Shetty did not feel it would create an uncomfortable atmosphere for the BCCI and PCB.

"No, I don't think so. PCB is aware of whatever is happening at the moment."

He said there was no discussion on the two teams playing the series at a neutral venue.

"We've not discussed anything on this," he said and added there would be "no tour to replace the Pakistan series".

The Sports Minister gave the first indication of the government view when he sent out a strong message by bluntly suggesting that the team's tour of Pakistan should not go ahead.

The Minister had said it was not the right time to play cricket with Pakistan when "people from their soil were indulging in mass murder in India".

"Is it possible for one team to arrive in Mumbai and indulge in mass murder, and have another team go and play cricket in the winter afternoon sun at Lahore, immediately after," he had said.

The cancellation of the tour will hit Pakistan hard with the cash-starved PCB having already suffered with many teams calling off tours in the recent past.

Hit hard by teams after teams refusing to tour the country because of the volatile security situation there, Pakistan has not hosted a major international tournament since the Asia Cup in June this year.

The high-profile Champions Trophy, which was originally scheduled to be held in Pakistan in September this year, had to be deferred with most teams refusing to tour the country. The Indian junior hockey team's tour was also cancelled last month.

Desperate to salvage the series, PCB Chairman Ejaz Butt had decided to tour India to convince the BCCI top brass and also offered to shift the series to a neutral venue, possibly Abu Dhabi or England, but after the Mumbai attacks, even that possibility had become non-existent.

First Published: Dec 18, 2008 15:45 IST