Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Australia unlikely to tour Pakistan

Heavy security enveloped the South African team on their visit to Pakistan in September-October 2007...

Australia's tour to Pakistan, scheduled for March-April, is looking increasingly doubtful following last week's meeting between the chairmen of both boards in Dubai.

Following the interaction, Creagh O'Connor, the Cricket Australia (CA) chairman, sent a letter to the Pakistan board expressing reservations about the security situation inside Pakistan.

"We received a letter yesterday from CA following our meeting and though they reiterated their commitment to supporting Pakistan cricket, they said that security briefings they have received in Australia are advising them against touring," Nasim Ashraf, the PCB chairman, told Cricinfo.

A CA security delegation is due to visit the country in the aftermath of general elections, to be held on February 18. But a report in the Urdu daily Jang said CA were unsure whether sending a delegation would serve any purpose now, indicating perhaps that a decision to not tour had already been made.

"They have asked us whether we still want a security delegation sent here and if so when," Ashraf said. "In response to this, we have told CA that we still firmly believe that the environment for cricket and cricketers is still safe here. We have also said that the security team should visit Pakistan from February 25, exactly one week after the elections."

Australian players have expressed concerns about touring Pakistan for what would be their first tour in a decade, following a year of increasing violence and instability through the country. Despite this South Africa and Zimbabwe have both completed tours in recent months without any glitches.

But privately, board officials now concede that the tour is becoming an unlikely prospect and the board has already insured the series, in anticipation of a cancellation. "Certainly public utterances coming from Australia seem quite indicative of them not wanting to tour Pakistan so it wouldn't be a surprise if they pulled out," one official told Cricinfo.

Pakistan will, however, continue to press for the tour to go ahead. Shafqat Naghmi, the PCB's chief operating officer, is scheduled to meet James Sutherland, the CA chief executive, in Kuala Lumpur and further discuss security arrangements. "We stress that incidents could happen anywhere in the world," Ashraf said. They happen in Sri Lanka, they happened in Glasgow last year when we were there for an ODI and bombs went off in England in 2005 when Australia were there. We have to make decisions not just on perceptions, but ground realities."

"We are making every effort to ensure the tour goes ahead. It would be a big loss to Pakistan cricket if they didn't tour."