A senior Board of Control for Cricket in India official told rediff.com on Thursday that the Union home ministry is not in favour of the Indian team touring Pakistan at this juncture and would like to shift the tour to May, that is after the general election.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister L K Advani has taken note of security concerns expressed by Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar who reportedly do not wish to tour Pakistan under the current circumstances, the BCCI official said.
Advani is constantly being updated by security agencies on the threat preception to the Indian players from terror groups in Pakistan.
"How can they (Pakistani security agencies) give our players security when their president was attacked twice and had a providential escape?" a senior home ministry official asked.
Rajiv Shukla, the Rajya Sabha MP and BCCI member, told rediff.com that the three-member BCCI fact-finding team is still in Pakistan; the Board will take a decision on the tour after the trio return to New Delhi.
"The BCCI is willing to go ahead with the tour. But the Board cannot take the responsbility for the security concerns of our leading players. The matter has to be decided by the home ministry. We will go by their advice," Shukla said.
Asked if there was a possibility of the tour being cancelled or postponed, Shukla was confident that the Indian team would visit Pakistan. If Advani wanted to shift the tour to after the election, he said the BCCI would check with the Pakistan Cricket Board if fresh dates are available in May.
There is a lot financially at stake in the Indian tour. According to Business Standard newspaper, Ten Sports, the channel owned by Sharjah Sheikh Abdul Rehman Bukhatir, has already sold over $100 million (around Rs 450 crore) worth of advertising spots for the India-Pakistan series.
Kirti Azad, the former Indian cricketer and one of the national selectors, said decisions on the players' security could only be taken by the Government of India.
"All factors would have to be taken into account while deciding whether the tour should go on or not. We have to take into account good relations with Pakistan as well as the wellbeing of our players," Azad told rediff.com on the telephone from his Lok Sabha constitutency, Darbhanga in Bihar.
The BCCI team comprising Joint Secretary Professor Ratnakar Shetty, Director, Media Relations Amrit Mathur and Yashovardhan Azad, inspector general at the Union home ministry, will return to India on Saturday, Februrary 14, and submit its report to the home ministry and BCCI.
"Any decision on the tour will be taken after that," one of the home minister's aides told rediff.com
According to home ministry sources the government is considering two options -- either shift the tour to after the election or leave it to individual players to take a decision whether they want to go ahead with the tour or not. If the second option materialises a second-string Indian team could visit Pakistan, though it is not clear what security will be provided to these players. The government may also not clear matches in Karachi and Peshawar on security grounds.
The home ministry is unwilling to brush aside the players' security concerns because terrorists arrested by the Delhi police last year told detectives they were asked to kidnap Tendulkar. The terrorists are currently lodged in Delhi's Tihar jail.