OTHERS

We will not play cricket with Pak.: Uma Bharti

NEW DELHI, NOV. 27. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) may be engaged in efforts to seek a review on the Government's stand regarding India's cricket tour to Pakistan but the Sports Minister, Ms. Uma Bharti, on Monday expressed complete ignorance of any such move.

``I have not heard anything from the BCCI or the ACC in this regard. There has been no formal request for any meeting on Tuesday,'' she informed. When told that there had been reports in the media regarding an ACC delegation scheduled to meet her on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of the Government having second thoughts, Ms. Bharti quipped ``I am out of station tomorrow. So there can't be any question of I meeting any ACC delegation.''

The Minister was keen on answering every query regarding the Pakistan tour. ``There is no question of any review by the Government on the earlier stand that India will not tour Pakistan to play cricket,'' she emphasised.

Ms. Bharti's reaction was in complete contrast to the rosy picture painted a few days ago by the former BCCI president, Mr. Raj Singh Dungarpur, on his visit to Pakistan and the concern of the cricket officials from across the border. ``They are very keen on having us,'' Mr. Dungarpur had announced. ``No way will we review the decision,'' asserted Ms. Bharti today. Denying there was any pressure on the Sports Ministry to have a rethink on the Pakistan tour, Ms. Bharti said ``we will not succumb to any pressure. In any case, let me tell you there has been no pressure at all thus far.'' She also confirmed that the Government will not allow India to have any bilateral sporting contact with Pakistan in any discipline.

The BCCI president, Mr. A. C. Muthaiah, giving his views on the Government decision, said ``we have no other choice but to abide by what the Government says. On purely cricketing grounds, it is important for the Asian region that India and Pakistan maintain cricketing ties. If national interest says we should not play Pakistan, then we will always abide by the Government decision.''

On the reported moves by Mr. Dungarpur, the Board chief said ``he may be keen that India visits Pakistan. He took my permission to meet the External Affairs Minister and present his case for allowing the Indian team to tour Pakistan.'' Mr. Muthaiah, however, did not want to comment in what capacity was Mr. Dungarpur canvassing for the Pakistan tour.

Mr. Muthaiah also rubbished the reported threat from the International Cricket Council (ICC) to penalise the BCCI if India did not tour Pakistan. ``We can't be subjected to any pressure when the Government says we can't tour Pakistan.''

Going back to the match-fixing issue, Ms. Bharti wanted the BCCI to take immediate action against players found guilty. ``I have told the BCCI that there should not be any further delay in announcing the decision. The Government is making efforts to introduce new laws to stop such malpractices in future and the BCCI should take the lead by punishing the guilty players. We will take care that innocent players are not hounded but also make sure that the guilty are not spared.''

``Can you please repeat a few lines on Pakistan tour for television viewers?'' came a plea even as Ms. Bharti made an attempt to wind up. Pat came her response ``there is no question of any review on the Government stand. We will not play cricket with Pakistan.''