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India pulls out of Sharjah tri-series again


NEW DELHI, March 25 (AFP) - The Indian government has once again refused to allow its cricket team to play against Pakistan in the Gulf venue of Sharjah, officials told AFP on Sunday.

A senior sports ministry official said that India will not take part in the limited-overs tri-series tournament against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Sharjah from April 8-20.

"Permission has not been given to play in Sharjah," the official said, adding a formal announcement to this effect will be made by sports minister Uma Bharti on Monday.

The government's decision has been conveyed to officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the official said.

This is the fourth time in the past two years that India has refused to play senior-level cricket against Pakistan, even though the two countries have met in other sporting events recently.

India played Pakistan in the final of the Prime Minister's Gold Cup hockey tournament in Bangladesh on March 19, with India winning in a penalty shoot-out.

Pakistani players also took part in the Asian junior squash championships in the southern Indian city of Madras in February.

Sources in India said the government was wary of the national team taking part in off-shore limited-overs series in the wake of the match-fixing scandal that has rocked the sport.

The scandal has seen life bans imposed on three former captains; Hansie Cronje of South Africa, Mohammad Azharuddin of India and Salim Malik of Pakistan.

Three other Indian players who were charged by federal investigators for having links with bookmakers, Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar and Ajay Sharma, were also penalised.

India cancelled the annual Sahara Cup series against Pakistan in Canada twice in 1999 and 2000 following the Kargil conflict in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Last December, India's scheduled Test tour of Pakistan was called off and in February this year India refused to play Pakistan in Sharjah to raise funds for the Gujarat earthquake.

It was not immediately clear whether the Sharjah-based Cricketers Benefit Fund Series (CBFS) would go ahead with the April tournament in India's absence.

Sharjah has hosted more one-day internationals (167) than any venue in the world.

India accuses Pakistan of fomenting trouble in Kashmir, a charge denied by Islamabad.





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