Vol. 5 Num 215 Fri. December 31, 2004  

India unlikely to fill the SL void in NZ

India is unlikely to accept any offer to play in New Zealand in January in place of the Sri Lankans, who cancelled a tour in the wake of the Asian tsunami tragedy, an official in New Delhi said Thursday.

India, the only major cricket-playing nation free of international commitments in January and February, was cited in New Zealand reports as a possible replacement for the Sri Lankans, who decided to fly home to be with their families.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) official Amrit Mathur said any offer from New Zealand was likely to be rejected to give the players time to recuperate after a gruelling schedule that began in July and ended earlier this week in Bangladesh.

"We have not heard from New Zealand but even if we did the proposal was unlikely to be accepted," Mathur told AFP.

"The boys have been busy for six months and need rest before Pakistan tour India from the last week of February."

Mathur added the Indian board would take measures to raise funds for the victims of the havoc wrought by the tsunami tidal waves which were triggered by a huge earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Sunday.

An estimated 80,000 have been killed in Asia, including 22,800 in Sri Lanka and 10,850 in India, and thousands rendered homeless with the death toll expected to rise further.

"We can raise funds through charity matches and other means," Mathur said. "It is a horrific tragedy and it is our duty to help."

Pakistan has proposed organising a fund-raising match in the near future, featuring players from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, subject to the availability of the teams.

While India and Sri Lanka have no engagements at present, Pakistan's ongoing tour of Australia will continue through to the first week of February.

India's cricketers, meanwhile, will donate a day's fees to the affected families, Indian Cricket Players Association official Arun Lal said on Thursday.

"We will also organise charity auctions and functions to raise money," Lal said.

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) officials in Wellington had earlier on Thursday said that India loomed as the only possible immediate replacement for the cancelled Sri Lankan tour.

New Zealand are desperate to fill the void, both for financial reasons and to provide ongoing international competition for the Black Caps before world champions Australia arrive in mid-February.

It was unrealistic to expect Sri Lanka to return in the next month -- after their tour was cancelled so they could return home after the Asian tsunami -- and of the other Test-playing nations only India had a vacant January, NZC chief executive Martin Snedden said.

"I haven't had a chance to look closely at it but we'll have to do some work ... it's a possible option but I don't know whether it's workable or not," he said.

New Zealand hoped the Sri Lankan tour could be rescheduled some time in the next two years, meaning television rights, which make up the bulk of tour revenues, would not be lost, he said, adding both countries would take a "severe" financial hit from the cancellation.

NZC's insurance covered gate takings only in the event of rained off matches.