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Neutral venue option for Pakistan-India series

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - The upcoming Pakistan-India series may be played at a neutral venue like Abu Dhabi if India refuses to tour on security grounds, a Pakistan Cricket Board official said Thursday.

"In a worst scenario, if India has its reservations (to tour Pakistan), we can consider playing at a neutral venue," PCB’s chief operating officer Salim Altaf said.

India is scheduled to play three tests and five one-day internationals during its Jan. 4-Feb. 19 tour to Pakistan.

"Of course our first priority will be that foreign teams start playing top level cricket in Pakistan," Altaf said.

"However, we don’t rule out playing at the neutral venue because we want to generate funds and don’t want to become an isolated cricketing nation."

Earlier this week, India’s government refused permission to its junior hockey team to tour Pakistan due to security concerns. Abu Dhabi has emerged as the one of the options to host Pakistan-India test matches.

"If Pakistan is not able to host Indians, we are willing to stage the matches free of cost," Abu Dhabi Cricket Council’s chief executive Dilawar Mani told private television channel GEO.

Pakistan is currently playing a three-match limited-overs series against the West Indies in Abu Dhabi.

The International Cricket Council is eager to use the Pakistan-India series as the benchmark to convince other teams - especially non-Asian countries - that it’s safe to play cricket in Pakistan and a transfer to a neutral venue would undermine that message.

Pakistan is the only test-playing nation - among the nine competing in top format of the game - which will end 2008 without playing a test match.

It was scheduled to play three home tests in March, but world champion Australia canceled its tour due to security reservations. September’s Champions Trophy was also postponed until next year after four leading teams - South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and England - expressed apprehensions about security.

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