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Pakistanis lash India over Asian cricket spat


KARACHI, March 28 (AFP) - Former Pakistani cricket greats said Wednesday the future of cricket in Asia is in danger following India's refusal to play Pakistan due to political differences.

Imran Khan, who launched a career in politics following his retirement from Test cricket in the early 1990s, appealed to India to save international cricket on the sub-continent.

"Pakistan's sharp reaction was long overdue because of the Indian government's rigidity. Now the ball is in India's court to stop the breakup of Asian cricket," the former Test captain told AFP.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Lieutenant General Tauqir Zia said Sunday that Pakistan would never play India again in response to New Delhi's refusal to send a team to a one-day tournament in Sharjah next month.

India accuses Pakistan of backing Muslim rebels in the divided Himalayan state of Kashmir, which has sparked two of the rivals' three wars since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.

In addition to the Sharjah pullout, India skipped the Sahara Cup in Toronto last year and cancelled a tour to Pakistan in December.

"The Indian board earned millions through Pakistan's tour in 1999 but when it was Pakistan's turn to earn some money they refused to allow their team to come, costing us millions of dollars," Khan said.

India and Pakistan are the backbone of cricket in Asia, the fastest growing region for the sport following the granting of Test status to Bangladesh in June last year.

Test match attendances in both countries put the rest of the cricket world to shame, especially when they play each other.

"When Pakistan and India can play in hockey, squash and other sports why can't they play cricket?" another former Pakistan captain, Zaheer Abbas, asked.

Pakistan and India clashed in the final of Bangladesh's President Cup hockey last week and Pakistani players crossed the border to appear in the Asian junior squash championship last month.

"Only ten countries play Test cricket world-wide and only four Asian countries are there, and if Pakistan and India do not play each other how will cricket progress in this part of the world?" Abbas said.

Former captain and ex-PCB chief executive Majid Khan said India's mixture of politics and sport had disappointed most cricket fans, no matter their nationality.

"Every cricket lover wants to see Pakistan-India matches and if both countries decide against playing each other it will be a great loss for the game," he said.

Former Test cricketer Salahuddin Ahmed "saluted" Zia for his pique this week, although some have said the general should have tried to be more positive for the sake of the game.

"Pakistan's stance is correct and I salute the general for taking such a bold decision (not to play India again)," he said.

He said India deserved nothing less following its refusal to play Pakistan in a Sharjah charity series last month to raise funds for Indian earthquake victims.

"It was the limit this time because Pakistan had tried to help their quake victims through a charity series, yet they refused," Ahmed said.

Pakistan and India last met in a one-day international in Dhaka in June last year.

The spat in South Asian cricket also threatens to disrupt the tightly scheduled international itinerary which is planned at least a year in advance.





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