The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Monday rubbished reports that claimed Pakistan umpire Aleem Dar has been withdrawn from the upcoming Test series between England and India, starting 9 November.
It was reported that Dar was removed from the list of umpires, who were set to officiate the five-match Test series and will be replaced by Sri Lanka's Kumar Dharmasena.
The escalated tensions between neighbours India and Pakistan, after the militant attack on an army camp in the Uri region of Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 19 Indian soldiers last month, was reportedly identified as the reason for the international cricket body's recent move.
Notably, people from the cricket fraternity of India, including Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Anurag Thakur and opening batsman Gautam Gambhir have opined against playing cricket with Pakistan following the attacks. Dar, who is part of the ICC Elite Panel, was also withdrawn from South Africa's ODI series in India last year following threats from right-wing groups in the country.
However, the ICC has denied any such move and said Dar was already in Perth to officiate in the first Test between Australia and South Africa, starting 3 November.
"Two things - a person can only be withdrawn if he had been appointed first and you know officials of the India-England series were never appointed with Dar in it. So how can someone say he has been withdrawn," an ICC spokesperson was quoted as saying by India Today.
"Secondly, and more importantly, Dar had been named for the Australia-South Africa series and he is already in Perth for the first Test. Once his appointment was done for that series, it is very wrong to assume he has been withdrawn by ICC for the India series."
Kumar Dharmasena, Paul Reiffel, Bruce Oxenford, Rod Tucker, Chris Gaffaney and Marais Erasmus have been named as umpires for the England tour, according to the report.
The India tour will be an acid test for Alastair Cook's men, who were given a run for their money by Bangladesh in the recently concluded two-match series. The hosts came close to beating the visitors in the first Test only to fall short by only 22 runs.
However, in Mirpur, Bangladesh registered their first-ever Test win over England. Cook's unit found no answers to top quality spin bowling effort from 19-year-old off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz, who picked up 12 wickets in the match.
With Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in imperious form, England will have to improve their ability to tackle spin if they are to stand any chance of surviving a possible ordeal in India.