| Comfortable here: England captain Michael Vaughan during the second Test match with Pakistan in Faisalabad on Sunday. (AFP)
Calcutta, Nov. 20: England is considering the diplomatic snub of playing its warm-up games in Pakistan before the Test series in India in March because of a dispute over the itinerary.
According to a report in London’s Daily Telegraph, England’s cricket authorities have already approached Pakistan with a proposal.
The paper said they found it “humiliating” that the England team would have to play the warm-up games in Jamshedpur and Agartala before the first Test in Ahmedabad on March 8. As an example of Agartala’s lack of credentials to stage a first-class match, the paper said the northeastern city’s main hotel charges less than '5 per room.
It is true that no match featuring a foreign team has been played at Agartala in recent memory, but Jamshedpur is no stranger to international ties. Pakistan played a one-day match there on the last tour.
Goutam Dasgupta, joint secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, virtually ruled out a shift.
“We have to follow a rotational policy and cannot change venues at the last minute. If ECB (England Cricket Board) officially lets us know about their reservations, we will refer the matter to the tour and fixture committee,” he said.
The Daily Telegraph report said ECB representatives John Carr and Richard Bevan were told of the two practice-game venues at a meeting in Calcutta on Thursday.
Apparently, that blew the fuse in the England camp, which was already fuming over the itinerary for the Tests and one-day internationals.
It is angry that only Mumbai of India’s top 10 Test venues has been given one of three Tests and that the seven one-dayers are spread all over the country, which would mean travelling from one corner to the other in the “hot” month of April.
The warm-up one-day match, however, is in Dharmsala, which should be cool.
Indian cricketers, who have toured England, Sunil Gavaskar included, have often complained about the poor facilities in obscure playing centres and the freezing, windy venues where they have been made to take the field ' in Scotland and Wales, for instance.
It is not known if the itinerary for England’s tour has been fixed to avenge for the “humiliation” Indian teams supposedly suffered in that country, but the media there do see a link to the animosity the ECB has had with Jagmohan Dalmiya, the former BCCI president.
Dalmiya attended Thursday’s meeting, though he does not hold a BCCI post now, the Daily Telegraph said. The only concession the two England representatives won was a promise to change the order of the one-day matches so that team does not have to travel so much.
Surely, England alone cannot be affected by the travelling. The Indian team will also have to travel as much.
Carr has flown back to Pakistan and reported his findings to England, which is now playing in Faisalabad.
If the programme is confirmed at a BCCI meeting on November 29-30, England is expected to reject both warm-up venues.
Colonel Naushad Ali, the Pakistan board's media co-ordinator,confirmed that England had made the approach. “I’m sure we can arrange something between Islamabad and Lahore,” he added.
The ECB will now send a letter to the Indian board with “strong representations”, the Daily Telegraph said.
Das Gupta said: “If the ECB writes to us, at the most we can take it up at the appropriate forum and decide.”
The only previous occasion on which England went out of its way to practise in another country was last winter when they preferred to warm up in Namibia before flying to Zimbabwe.
That England is considering treating India in the same way 'barring a change of leadership in the Indian board elections this month ' reflects their discontent, the paper said.
In contrast, it cited the attitude of the Pakistan board, which is bending over backwards to please the tourists, possibly simply because they have agreed to play. Foreign teams have been apprehensive about visiting Pakistan for security reasons.
Last week there was a bomb blast near the Karachi hotel where the England team is expected to put up next month.
It is not known, however, if in this season of cross-border warmth, Pakistan will risk a diplomatic crisis with India by agreeing to host an England team for warm-up games.
Written with a Daily Telegraph report