Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pakistan hope to face Australia within a year

Tim Nielsen, Australia's coach, has not finalised Australia's schedule for May, but he believes Twenty20 games would be good preparation for the West Indies tour...

The Pakistan Cricket Board will look to reschedule Australia's Test tour in November or next March after the original trip was postponed on Tuesday. Australia's players are relieved the decision was made to cancel the visit over security and saftey concerns, but they are still due in the country for the Champions Trophy tournament in October, an event David Morgan, the ICC president-elect, wants to go ahead as planned.

Shafqat Naghmi, the PCB's chief operating officer, told the Sydney Morning Herald Cricket Australia had asked the hosts to propose a new date. "We have looked at the international schedule and all of the other factors, and we think either November this year or March next year would be a good time for the tour to go ahead," Naghmi said. "If it was to proceed in November, it would most likely be a split tour, with the Australians then coming back in March.

"But if it were to take place in March, it would be a full tour. From reading James Sutherland's statements, I think he favours March." Australia are also due in India in October and will host a Test series against New Zealand and start a contest with South Africa before the end of 2008.

Both the PCB and the Australian government do not believe the Indian Premier League (IPL), which is due to start on April 18, had any influence on the team staying home. "There have been suggestions that somehow the decision by Cricket Australia and the Pakistan Cricket Board is related to proposed Twenty20 games in India," Stephen Smith, Australia's foreign minister, said in the Australian.

"I absolutely reject that suggestion. From the first time I had a conversation with Cricket Australia about this matter, I was absolutely convinced that CA had the security, safety and welfare of their players and any members of a touring party uppermost in their minds."

The window in the calendar theoretically frees Australia's players to take part in the lucrative IPL, but there have been suggestions Cricket Australia will stage a short limited-overs series before leaving for the West Indies on May 10. However, Tim Nielsen, the national coach, has not finalised Australia's schedule and believes Twenty20 games would be good preparation.

"As long as it fits in and Cricket Australia is comfortable with it, I don't have any problem," Nielsen told the Age. "It is nice that they can play some competitive cricket. I always encourage guys to be playing county cricket when it fits in because it is nice to be playing competitive, organised cricket. It is probably the best preparation they can get to put their bodies through those sorts of workloads."

Michael Clarke and Stuart Clark joined Matthew Hayden and Brett Lee in welcoming the decision to pull out of the tour. "I don't think 'disappointed' is the right word - I'm rapt Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association made the decision and it didn't have to come down to individual players," Clarke told AAP. "I'm very relieved and happy they've done that for the playing group."

Clark said the squad was worried about the situation in Pakistan. "I don't think anyone likes it when a cricket tour gets called off because that's our job, but there were obviously concerns from everyone involved," he said. "We were getting third-hand information, reading the papers and listening to the news on the TV and we were obviously getting the sensational news about bombings and stuff like that."