Friday, March 28, 2008

South Africa say no to Tests in Pakistan

South Africa, who won 1-0 in Pakistan last year, have declined touring for a Test series in the immediate future...

South Africa will not be playing a Test series against Pakistan in the near future, scuppering the Pakistan Cricket Board's increasingly frenzied efforts to try and fill up an empty international calendar.

Pakistan sent an official proposal to Cricket South Africa (CSA) yesterday, though local reports had revealed the proposal some time ago. Yesterday, some Urdu newspapers carried quotes from Nasim Ashraf, chairman PCB, claiming that South Africa had agreed to play a Test series in October, though the venue had yet to be agreed upon.

But another PCB official told Cricinfo that the proposal was only sent yesterday and is unlikely whether CSA would have received it. "We are free during October and South Africa are also free, so we have proposed a three-Test series in that period, to be played in either Pakistan or South Africa," Shafqat Naghmi, chief operating officer PCB, said. "We only sent the proposal yesterday so are not sure how they will respond."

A CSA official, however, said that no such proposal had yet been received and even if there is one, South Africa will not be available. "Statements in the media attributed to the Pakistan Cricket Board relating to a possible Pakistan vs South Africa Test series, are without substance," a statement from Brian Basson, General Manager Cricket Operations, said.

"Cricket South Africa is yet to receive a formal request from the PCB. Should a request of this nature come through from PCB, CSA would unfortunately not be in a position to accept such a proposal due to its intense tour schedule."

After the ICC Champions Trophy in September, to be held in Pakistan, South Africa are due to host Bangladesh in November, before heading off to Australia. Not only does the refusal come as a further blow to the PCB's efforts to fill up its calendar, it will raise further questions about the method in which the board has approached the task.

Since Australia pulled out of its tour for March-April, due to security concerns, Pakistani officials have scurried around trying to line up commitments in a calendar where they play six Tests between December 2007 and November 2009.

They have succeeded only in inviting Bangladesh for a series of five ODIs in April and though Sri Lanka agreed to a similar series, a clash with the Indian Premier League (IPL) has temporarily sidelined that. Though the PCB denied that the IPL had anything to do with it, Cricinfo believes that alongside SLC, both boards agreed to not play the series as originally proposed between April 23 and May 5 as it would deprive the IPL of several big names from either side.

The Pakistan board says the series could instead be played in June, but in the same breath mentions a possible tri-series in Bangladesh, also in the same month. June in any case is earmarked for the Asia Cup, due to be held in Pakistan for the first time. Additionally, the extreme summer temperatures make cricket impossible in most parts of the country, except Karachi.

Earlier in March, board officials were '99%' convinced that India would agree to play a three-match ODI series in Pakistan, a conviction never shared by the BCCI. The series with Sri Lanka, also apparently confirmed, seems unlikely to happen anytime soon. Now South Africa have refused a proposal before even receiving it, confirming perhaps that the PCB is approaching the problem with a series of knee-jerk reactions and ill-conceived proposals as opposed to a proper strategy.

PCB claims three-Test proposal has been sent