New Delhi, Feb. 7: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi went hammer and tongs at Pakistan for its reluctance to play in Ahmedabad on a day the country's cricket board, in a quick turnaround, said it was governed by 'security concerns', not politics.
Modi tried to queer the pitch for the Indo-Pak series beginning later this month, but the neighbours went about their diplomatic business as usual.
Pakistan today said it has invited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a state visit and the invitation has been accepted in principle. 'We had suggested March,' Pakistan foreign office spokesman Masood Khan said. 'But we do not have any confirmation of when he would actually come.'
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said the question of controversy over Pakistan's reluctance to play in Ahmedabad had not reached them so far and hoped it would get sorted out at the level of the home and external affairs ministries.
But Modi and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad were determined to make an issue out of it. Campaigning for the BJP in Jamshedpur, Modi declared that Pakistan's decision was an 'insult' to Gujarat and an 'insult' to India and the government should step in to save the state's 'pride'.
The VHP demanded that Pakistan be barred from playing anywhere in the country.
The Pakistan Cricket Board said in a statement: 'after receiving the report of the security team that recently visited India, the PCB has requested BCCI to change the venue of the second Test from Ahmedabad to any other venue of Test status in India on grounds of security.'
Yesterday, board chief Shaharyar Khan was quoted as saying the reason was political.
BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla today left for Lahore on a private visit during which he is also expected to try to convince Pakistan to play in Ahmedabad. Shukla is going for the wedding of the son of former Pakistan Prime Minister Chowdhary Shujaat Hussain and is likely to meet Shaharyar Khan. He might call on President Pervez Musharraf, the PCB's patron-in-chief.
Modi said Pakistan's reluctance to play in Gujarat was 'cowardly' and was prompted by fear of defeat. 'Come and play. You will only lose, what else' he taunted. 'The soil of Gujarat is ready and prepared to beat Pakistan.'