|Pakistan cricket fans burn an effigy of IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi in Lahore [AFP]
The Pakistan Cricket Board will file a complaint with the International Cricket Council after its players were ignored during the Indian Premier League auction earlier this week.
The perceived snub to Pakistani players on Tuesday has sparked a diplomatic spat between the two countries, triggered by the eight IPL franchises not bidding for any Pakistan cricketers - including Twenty20 Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi.
Pakistan sports minister Ijaz Jhakrani on Friday called the exclusion of Pakistan players "a serious issue.''
"How can they (IPL franchises) avoid bidding for players from the world champion team?'' Jhakrani said.
Pakistan are the reigning Twenty20 world champion after winning the title in England last year.
After meeting the PCB chairman in Lahore, Jhakrani said "it's our unanimous decision to take up this issue at the highest forum and lodge our protest at the ICC.''
The omission of players has triggered widespread protests in Pakistan with effigies of IPL chief Lalit Modi being burnt on the streets of Lahore amid condemnation from politicians and threats of boycotts from other Pakistani sports teams.
Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna was drawn into the controversy on Thursday, denying that his government was behind the move following suggestions from IPL franchises that Pakistani players may have been refused Indian visas.
However, one anonymous franchise official, told news agency AFP that he was not surprised that the Pakistanis were excluded.
"We were not sure if they would get visas and we did not want players who won't be available," he said.
"Besides, there is also the security issue. No one was willing to take a chance."
IPL Commissioner Modi blamed the media for the uproar and denied there was any conspiracy against Pakistan players.
"The media is biased. No one talks about the players from countries like Australia, Canada and Zimbabwe not being picked in the auction.
“There was no preconceived conspiracy to leave Pakistani players,'' Press Trust of India quoted Modi as saying.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence in 1947 and tensions spiked in 2008 when 166 people were killed in attacks on Mumbai.
India cancelled a scheduled cricket tour of Pakistan after the attacks, breaking a sequence of bilateral Test series held on each other's soil every year from 2004 to 2007.
In a further setback, the International Cricket Council withdrew Pakistan's right to host matches in next year's Cricket World Cup, following the attack in Lahore on Sri Lanka's cricket team last March.
Pakistan's matches were instead shared among co-hosts India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The third season of the lucrative IPL auction featured 66 international players available for just 11 slots.
A top Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) official said Pakistan should not feel insulted by the fact its players were ignored during the auction, because many players from other nations were also overlooked.
"The differing needs of the franchises and availability of the players played a large role in whom the teams bid for,'' N.Srinivasan, owner of the Chennai Super Kings and BCCI secretary, told local newspaper, The Hindu.
"How can you say if you do not buy a player from a particular country it is an insult to that nation?"
N. Srinivasan - owner
Chennai Super Kings
"How can you say if you do not buy a player from a particular country it is an insult to that nation?
"There were 55 cricketers who must have been disappointed with the auction. I do not think one should look at the nationality of the cricketers at all here,'' he said.
"The franchisees are paying good money for the team as well as the players. They have the right to pick the players they want. After all, it is their money.
"If you look at the auction, some very good cricketers such as Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brad Haddin and Graeme Swann did not find any takers. Their ability is not in question here. It is just that the franchisees entered the auction with specific needs.''
The BCCI official denied that the cricket board or Indian government blocked the selection of Pakistan players.
"The BCCI has no role. And the choice of the individual team owners should not be mixed up with government policy,'' he said.
"It is possible that some franchisees could have displayed interest in the Pakistani players and then changed their minds according to their needs.''