India call off Pakistan tour
Pakistan cricket suffered a body blow today with India cancelling a tour which was scheduled to begin in mid-January next year.
India's tour to Pakistan had hinged on government permission to travel to the neighbouring country.
But with political and diplomatic ties between the two countries hitting a new low due to the terror attacks in Mumbai, the Indian government refused to allow the tour to go ahead.
Sports minister MS Gill, who last week stated that the India team should not travel to Pakistan, formally announced the government's decision in parliament.
India's foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee had separately conveyed the government's decision to the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
"The government of India has told the BCCI today that allowing the tour of Pakistan would not be feasible for them due to the recent developments and the prevailing situation," said Rajiv Shukla, BCCI vice-president and a member of parliament.
"So the proposed tour of Pakistan by the Indian cricket team stands cancelled.
"The BCCI president had already said that they would abide by the government’s decision. Keeping the policy decision in mind, the tour has been called off," he said.
Shukla said the BCCI had received written confirmation of the government's decision.
Pakistan have suffered from a severe lack of international cricket this year with International Cricket Council member countries refusing to undertake scheduled tours due to security concerns.
Australia postponed a scheduled tour in April, New Zealand cancelled a three-match one-day series and the ICC Champions Trophy, due to be held in Pakistan in September, was postponed for 13 months after several teams refused to travel.
Pakistan have not played a Test this year and have participated in only 21 one-day internationals, most of them against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
PCB chairman Ijaz Butt said the cancellation of the series was a setback for cricket in the region.
"It's a huge shock for us," he said. "But in the end, it was a decision taken by the Indian government as the matter was out of the hands of the two boards.
"We tried our best to save the series. I went to India myself to discuss the matter with BCCI officials and I know for sure that the Indian cricket board was also very keen on playing the series. But in the end it was a political decision."
The PCB suffered huge financial losses due to the cancellation of tours and chief operating officer Saleem Altaf admitted that India's decision would severely hurt the board.
"With India not touring, we obviously gain nothing from our new television deal and lose out on other sources of income as well," he said.
The PCB recently signed a new television rights deal worth $140.5million with Dubai-based Ten Sports.
BCCI chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty said there were no plans to play Pakistan at a neutral venue.
"We have not had any discussions on that," he Shetty.
He also revealed the tour would have gone ahead, but for the Mumbai incidents.
"Before the Mumbai incident, it was just a speculation (that the tour would not go ahead) in the media," Shetty said. "The BCCI was always willing to tour Pakistan.
"But after Mumbai, every Indian has felt the effects of those incidents. At the BCCI, we were all aware of the repercussions.
"Pakistan board officials too have been aware of the strained relationship between the two countries at the political and diplomatic level," he said.
Shetty, however, did not think the decision would affect the 2011 World Cup which is to be co-hosted by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
"That's a different tournament," he said. "I don't even think this decision would stand in the way of relations between the PCB and the BCCI.”
The PCB had already begun the process of making alternative arrangements and have invited Sri Lanka to play three Tests, three ODIs and a Twenty20 match.
With the Pakistan tour off, India's next assignment is a tour of New Zealand in March next year.