The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Musharraf match on sticky wicket

New Delhi, March 31: A concrete ghost reared its head from the unfinished galleries of Ferozeshah Kotla, threatening to sabotage Pervez Musharraf's trip.

After asserting for several days that the ground, under renovation, would be ready to stage April 17's one-day international the Pakistan President will watch, the Delhi cricket body that is in charge of the Kotla cast a veil of uncertainty.

Arun Jaitley, a BJP leader and president of the Delhi and District Cricket Association said it might be difficult to meet the conditions imposed by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and security agencies for getting their mandatory clearance to host the India-Pakistan match.

'We have expressed our reservations on conditions imposed by the MCD and security agencies. We have decided to immediately convey our views to the BCCI today itself. It is now up to the BCCI to take a final decision,' he said after a meeting of the body's executive committee.

The announcement threw the political establishment into a tizzy, from Delhi to Mauritius, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is visiting with senior government officials, including national security adviser M.K. Narayanan.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said on Singh's instruction, Narayanan spoke to home minister Shivraj Patil and Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, asking them to retrieve the situation.

After this, the home ministry issued a statement saying security agencies were not a hurdle to the match, as contended by Jaitley.

'All requisite security arrangements will be in place for holding the one-day international cricket match. There is no reason why the match should be called off for security considerations,' a home ministry spokesman said.

Delhi police, too, chipped in with a reassuring statement, saying it was ready with all security arrangements. 'Providing security at large gatherings where VVIPs are also present is something which Delhi police undertake quite often,' a spokesman said.

Rakesh Mehta, the head of the MCD, contested Jaitley's assertion, saying the cricket body had not even applied for clearance.

Jaitley had said earlier: 'Broadly the' absence of MCD clearance is creating difficulty in staging the match.'

Mehta, however, added that it would be difficult for the civic body to relax some of the conditions in a stadium that is still under construction.

'For that to happen, higher authorities will have to be approached,' he added.

News of the development reached Kochi, where the Indian and Pakistan teams have reached for Saturday's one-day match.

Till late evening, however, sources in the BCCI said they had not received the intimation about the difficulty in hosting the match Jaitley had said he would send.

PMO sources suspected foul play by the BJP to 'scuttle the match' and put a spanner in Singh's Pakistan diplomacy.

The sources said that regardless of the fate of the match, the Prime Minister wants to meet Musharraf.

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