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India Cricket Tour of Pakistan in Serious Doubt

India's sport minister has come out strongly against allowing the country's cricket team to tour Pakistan next month. The sport is an obsession in both countries. And the probable cancellation of the tour would be the latest indication of how quickly and sharply relations have soured between the two neighbors since the Mumbai terror attack.

India's sports minister is dashing hopes that the national cricket team will be able to tour neighboring Pakistan early in the new year. India is scheduled to visit Pakistan for a 45-day tour beginning January 6. But sports minister M.S. Gill tells the Press Trust of India it is not the right time to play cricket when people from Pakistan were indulging in mass murder in India.

The comment came as the chairman of Pakistan's Cricket Board, Ejaz Butt, was in Chennai to meet with Indian cricket officials to try to salvage the series.

Rajiv Shukla, vice president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and also a member of the upper house of parliament, says the BCCI will abide by whatever the government suggests regarding the pending Pakistan tour.

The president of the Indian Olympic Association, Suresh Kalmadi, argues that sporting ties between India and Pakistan maintain peace.

"That string should never be broken," he said. "And we should continue our dialogue through sports. But if it's a question of security, there's no question of our team touring"

The former captain of the Indian national cricket team, Sunil Gavaskar, speaking to the CNN-IBN network, casts strong doubt that the present atmosphere will allow India's cricketers to visit Pakistan.

"I feel that at this particular point of time it looks impossible for India to go ahead with that tour," he said.

The International Cricket Commission says, if Pakistan agrees, a neutral venue could be selected for the series of matches against India. Last month's siege of Mumbai, blamed on Islamic terrorists from Pakistan, left about 170 people dead.

India and Pakistan have met each other on the cricket pitch only about 50 times. The vast majority of those encounters have ended in a draw, demonstrating the cautious approach taken by both teams in the athletic competitions draped with political overtones. The two countries have gone to war against each other several times since independence came for both in the late 1940s.