x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Mumbai attacks could spell end for Pakistan Test series

The Mumbai terrorist attacks could leave India with a barren cricket future, even if England return to the country for two Test matches.

NEW DELHI // The Mumbai terrorist attacks could leave India with a barren cricket future, even if England return to the country for two Test matches. While Indian officials are awaiting a decision from the England and Wales Cricket Board's security assessment to see if the two tests this month will proceed, many are concerned the subsequent series against Pakistan will not go ahead. Even the possibility of playing them at a neutral venue - with Abu Dhabi putting itself forward as a candidate, along with Sharjah and England - is diminishing.

Tension between India and Pakistan has increased since New Delhi blamed the attacks that killed at least 172 people on Pakistani militants. A Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the government was unlikely to clear the national team to play three tests, five limited-overs internationals and a Twenty20 match in Pakistan next month. Pakistan's foreign minister spent time in India last week hoping to allay the security fears.

He said New Delhi should allow its cricketers to play in Pakistan, then terrorists hit Mumbai. "Now even hopes of playing a series at a neutral venue in the Middle East might be dashed," said the spokesman. Officially, the BCCI is still waiting on word from the government. Indian news reports yesterday said there was a possibility of India-Pakistan cricket links being cut in the short to medium term.

India did not play a Test series in Pakistan for 14 years until 2004 and bilateral tours in any sports were rare. Only recently, the Indian government refused permission for its junior hockey team to play a series in Pakistan. Of more concern locally is the prospect of getting the England series started as scheduled on Dec 11 - the ECB has committed to the series, pending a security review - and finding a new slot for the Champions League Twenty20 tournament featuring the top provincial teams from five countries.

Champions League organisers are now exploring the possibility of scheduling the event in the period set aside for the Pakistan tour. But they face a big hurdle as South Africa will be touring Australia in January, taking out the top players from two of the five countries involved. Australia and South Africa's cricket boards are joint promoters of the Champions League, along with India. * AP