Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Pakistan finalise venues for Australia series

Karachi's National Stadium is all set to host the Australians...

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have finalised Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan as venues for all matches during Australia's tour, due to start next month. The tour, though still dependent upon a security assessment, includes three Tests, five one-dayers and a Twenty20 international.

Nasim Ashraf, chairman PCB, held a meeting with his Australian counterpart, Creagh O'Connor in Dubai to discuss the security arrangements for the tour, assuring him that the players will be provided security similar to those for visiting heads of states. Some Australian players have expressed concerns over touring Pakistan against a backdrop of escalating violence and tension, first with the imposition of emergency, and then with the assassination of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

"I think it was very worthwhile to meet with them," Ashraf told PTI. "I informed him [O'Connor] about the proposed tour itinerary and venues where the matches will be held. I also briefed him about the security arrangements being made for the Australians which are similar to those made for visiting head of states."

Ashraf said that Pakistan would rather scrap the tour if Australia didn't agree to tour than agree to shift the series to a neutral country. Australia last toured Pakistan in 1998 and their next visit, in 2002, was played in neutral venues, in Colombo and Sharjah.

"Our stance is very clear," Ashraf said. "We want the Australians to come and play in Pakistan as planned. Our people want to see them play as they have not toured Pakistan since 1998."

Zimbabwe's recent tour of Pakistan, which included five one-dayers, went off without any security glitches or untoward incidents. Hamilton Masakadza, the captain, said after the series that the team was well-looked after and that served as an encouraging sign for all future tours to the country.

Cricket Australia will send their security delegation to inspect the venues and facilities after general elections in Pakistan, to be held on February 18. A final decision on the tour will only be taken after that.