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Cricket venue row: Govts may step in

Govts of India and Pak will intervene if cricket chiefs fail to sort out the row.
By Agence France-Presse | PTI, Islamabad
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2005 01:35 PM IST

The Pakistani and Indian governments will get involved if cricket chiefs cannot sort out a row over venues for Pakistan's first tour over the border in six years, an official said on Thursday.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said on Monday that it had rejected Ahmedabad as a possible venue - where at least 2,000 people died in religious riots in 2002 -- on security grounds.

"If the matter of the venues is not decided properly, it will have an impact on our bilateral relations. So I met foreign office officials and they have taken notes and will interact on the government level and decide," PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan told AFP.

Khan added that he was confident Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh would "definitely" discuss the matter during his February 15-16 visit to Pakistan to prevent it becoming a diplomatic incident.

"Cricket is followed like a passion in both the countries and that's why we want to avoid any mishap," said Khan.

"We feel for the people of Ahmedabad and we hope India will listen to our stance," he said.

Pakistan last toured India in 1999 when Khan was manager of the team.

He said he had told senior foreign ministry officials about the background of the tour, due to start on February 25.

Khan brushed aside speculation that Pakistan's rejection of Ahmedabad would lead to the tour being cancelled.

"That limit will not be reached. It's our request to change a venue and that's based on fears of safety and security. We still wait for the Indian Board's reply and will never want the language of ultimatum (used) in this matter," he said.

Pakistan will play three Tests and five one-day games on the tour but the final schedule has been put on hold after Pakistan rejected Ahmedabad as the venue of the second Test.

Pakistan is predominantly Muslim, as were those who died at Ahmedabad, while India is majority Hindu.

Bangalore and Mohali are the other proposed Test venues while Kochi, Visakhapatnam, Kanpur, Jamshedpur and New Delhi are the proposed venues for the one-day series.

The two countries resumed bilateral cricket ties in March-April last year when the Indian team made their first full tour of Pakistan in almost 15 years, winning both the Test and one-day series.

India refused to play a Test in the volatile city of Karachi and instead played a one-day game there.

"It's not a tit-for-tat thing. Our team inspected venues in India last month and reported that it would not be safe to play a Test in Ahmedabad," the PCB chairman said.

India earlier this week said they were not averse to dropping Ahmedabad as a Test venue but termed reports about Chennai as a likely replacement for Ahmedabad as "pure speculation."

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