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ICC urges England to go back to India

International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Haroon Lorgat has pleaded with England's stars to return to India for next month's two-Test series.

England flew back to London on Saturday after the final two one-day internationals against India were postponed in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai this week that killed 174 people.

But Kevin Pietersen's team are due to return for the first Test starting on December 11 in Ahmedabad.

That match could be moved to Kolkata with the second Test already switched from Mumbai to Chennai, but Pietersen's players won't decide whether to return until they are given security advice from the England and Wales Cricket Board.

After expressing his horror at the events, Lorgat said: "If safety and security allow then I would urge the England Test tour of India to go ahead and if it does so then representatives of the ICC will be there to show solidarity with the competing teams.

"And if those Tests are played I would also urge supporters of the game to attend them as that will be the best way to send a message to those who seek to disrupt our way of life, that we will not be prevented from doing what we want or what we enjoy.

"I have written to the Board of Control for Cricket in India pledging whatever support the ICC can offer to help ensure that, if appropriate, cricket goes ahead.

"I have also written to the England and Wales Cricket Board with a similar offer of support and solidarity."

Lorgat also revealed issues of safety and security will be addressed at next week's ICC chief executives' committee meeting in Cape Town.

The ECB and the BCCI have discussed a number of ways forward but a neutral venue such as Abu Dhabi looks like one which will not be pursued.

The favoured option currently is thought to be for the team to head straight for the city in which they will play the first Test -- be it Ahmedabad or Kolkata -- and play a two-day warm-up game at an alternative ground to the Test.

Sehwag Warne's choice

Virender Sehwag was facing Pakistan's medium-fast bowler Abdul Razzaq, who was reverse-swinging the ball, and the way the Indian handled him is narrated in an interesting story in Australia's legendary spinner Shane Warne's just released book.

"Sehwag came up to (his batting mate Jeremy) Snape and said: 'we must lose this ball. I have a plan'. Next over he whacked the ball clean out of the ground, forcing umpires to pick another from the box that would obviously not reverse straight away. To which Sehwag said: 'We are alright for one hour.' Smart I say."

Sehwag and Snape were batting for English county Leicestershire against Middlesex when Razzaq started reverse swinging the ball in the way that the Pakistani bowlers do, Warne wrote in his book Shane Warne's Century and attributed the "great story" to Snape, who told it to him during their Indian Premier League days.

The Australian believes Sehwag's style was unmatched in the world and worked for him more than any other batsman with the same approach.

"Sehwag is one of my favourite batsmen in world cricket and one of my favourite personalities. This is a guy I would pay to watch. Alright, he could get caught at third man to a big slash or a top edge in the first or second over, but he could just as easily bat for an hour in a way unmatched by anybody else in the world.

"You can take pot luck with Sehwag, although the fact that he averages more than 50 in Test cricket shows that his style pays off for him more often than it does for most other batsmen with the same approach," Warne wrote about the only triple-centurion India has produced.

Warne, who led young underdogs Rajasthan Royals to the title win in the inaugural IPL season, feels it was worth even having an out-of-form Sehwag in the team.

"If I was his captain, I would look to pump him up at every opportunity, reminding him that he is a match winner... It is worth paying the price for the little mistakes for the times when he absolutely destroys the opposition and wins you a game," he said.

Despite some similarities, Warne felt it was unfair to compare Sehwag with Sachin Tendulkar, whom the Delhi batsman idolises.

"Comparisons with Sachin Tendulkar are unfair... Take him (Tendulkar) for what he is. Take Sehwag for what he is as well," he said and added "Their opening partnership in one-day cricket was usually worth the admission fee alone."

A self pro-claimed Tendulkar fan, Warne has now documented his feelings for the Indian, saying "Cricket has been fortunate to have a wonderful player and a first-rate ambassador, and to me he plays the game in right spirit..."

Warne also did not feel that being Tendulkar, it was imperative for the batting maestro to score in every innings.

"He doesn't score runs every innings, of course, but he hasn't suffered long troughs of poor form at any time in his career... the papers would praise him but also blame him sometimes if his innings did not win matches, as though he was responsible for the rest of the side -- what a joke that is.

The spin wizard also felt that Tendulkar should not be pestered to leave the game earlier than he wanted to, owing to factors like form and age.

"All good things come to an end, and we should make sure we really appreciate Tendulkar whilst he is around and playing well. We will all miss him when he is not around anymore!"

Warne also praised "hot-headed" off-spinner Harbhajan Singh as an "exceptional talent" but felt the Indian should have got stringent punishment than he got for abusing Andrew Symonds during the Sydney Test.

"He may not have a fan club in Australia after recent incidents with Andrew Symonds, but he is still the kind of exciting player spectators want to watch. I thought he handled the situation in Australia last year pretty badly and should have been punished more than he was," he said.

India cancel Pakistan cricket tour

India's government has refused permission to send a cricket team for a full tour of Pakistan early next year following the deadly Mumbai attacks, Indian television reported on Sunday.

The tour was cancelled amid a government probe into Pakistani links to the assaults on the country's financial capital by heavily-armed militants that left nearly 200 people dead.

The NDTV and CNN-IBN news channels, quoting unnamed government sources, said the matches were also unlikely to be played at neutral venues.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) declined to comment on the reports, saying its request for a security clearance for the tour was pending with the government.

India were scheduled to play three Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 match during the five-week tour from January 13 to February 19.

It was to be the fifth bilateral series between the two countries since 2004, when cricket ties resumed after a 15-year gap due to political tensions between the warring neighbours.

The tour was first put in doubt earlier this month when the Indian government denied permission to the national junior hockey team to visit Pakistan.

Australia cancelled a Test tour of Pakistan in March and the International Cricket Council put off the high-profile Champions Trophy there in September due to security concerns.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief Ijaz Butt had said on Friday the fate of India's tour lay in the hands of the respective governments.

"The security situation is out of our control and after what has happened in Mumbai, the decision on the Indian team's tour of Pakistan is now in two governments' hands," Butt said.

"Relocating the home series to neutral venues was a huge financial loss in the past so it's detestable but in an effort to give our players some cricket we will have to do that, but as a last resort."

Cricket officials in the United Arab Emirates had offered to host the series.

The BCCI is also waiting for England to confirm next week's two-Test tour of India after the last two one-day matches were cancelled and the tourists returned home following the Mumbai attacks.

The BCCI shifted the second Test from Mumbai to Chennai, but retained Vadodara as the venue for a three-day practice match from December 5 and the first Test in Ahmedabad from December 11.