Islamabad:Former and present Pakistan players expressed disappointment on Thursday at India's decision to cancel next month's cricket tour of Pakistan, saying the move could harm the sport in the region.
India's government advised its cricket authorities not to proceed with the scheduled tour in the wake of last month's Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 164 people. India blamed the attacks on Pakistani militants.
"It's a big disappointment and a setback to Asian cricket," former Test fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz said. "The terrorism acts could happen anywhere in the world, but that does not mean that sports activities should come to a halt."
India had been due to play three Tests, five one-dayers and a Twenty20 International in Pakistan during the planned January 8-February 9 tour.
"All of us (players) were waiting anxiously for the Indian team, but it's a disappointment that now they are not coming," Pakistan opening batsman Salman Butt told reporters in the eastern city of Lahore.
Within the political power structure of cricket, there had been co-operation between India and Pakistan despite the difficult relationship of the two traditional rivals.
"Once we thought Asia will be a strong bloc in the International Cricket Council, but if we don't play against each other in our respective countries how could we become stronger?" Nawaz said.
The Pakistan Cricket Board reacted swiftly to India's decision, inviting Sri Lanka to tour next month as a replacement opponent for three Tests, three one-day games and a Twenty20 International.
Pakistan will be desperate for Sri Lanka to accept, as India's refusal followed Australia's cancellation of a scheduled tour and the ICC's postponement of the Champions Trophy one-day tournament.
"If we play against Sri Lanka (in Pakistan) next month only then we can look forward," Nawaz said.
Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam said it was a shame that Pakistan fans would not get the chance to witness what is always a keenly anticipated series against India.
"It's really unfortunate and both people of Pakistan and players of our team are disappointed," Alam said. "I hope once things improve they might send their team to play against us. We have to move ahead and I hope the series against Sri Lanka will be finalized in a few days' time."
Hard-hitting batsman Shahid Afridi said sports is the best way of bringing nations closer.
"Cricket should go on if they (India) want to normalize relations with Pakistan," Afridi told Geo television.
Afridi said Pakistan toured India in 2005 and 2007 despite a tense security situation.
"Pakistan never refused and we went there with open hearts because their government and the cricket board gave us the security assurances," Afridi said. "When our government and the cricket board had given them security assurance this time, I think they should have believed us."
Chief selector Abdul Qadir said the situation was beyond the control of the BCCI and the PCB.
"We all made extraordinary efforts, but when things go in the hands of governments, nobody can do anything," he said.