Thursday, August 14, 2008

ICC fails to convince New Zealand on Pakistan

New Zealand's squad members were involved in an "active" meeting with the ICC task force.

New Zealand's squad has not softened its view on attending the Champions Trophy despite a detailed security briefing by an ICC task force in Christchurch on Thursday. Safety remains a prime concern and Heath Mills, the chief executive of the New Zealand Cricket Players' Association, will not be recommending the team attends the tournament.

"In all honesty, nothing I heard yesterday has allayed our concerns," Mills said. Twenty-two of New Zealand's contracted players attended the lengthy and animated meeting along with team management and New Zealand Cricket officials. Worried players threw many questions at the out-numbered ICC representatives, who had arrived from a security assessment in Pakistan in an effort to convince the side to travel, but at this stage the official plea is unlikely to work.

"It was an interesting meeting, an active meeting," Mills said. "It went for a while." Similar concerns are expected to be heard when the ICC group arrives to discuss the situation in Australia on Friday. The tournament is also expected to be on the agenda at Friday's New Zealand Cricket board meeting.

David Richardson, the ICC general manager of cricket, is heading the task force, which also includes the communication manager Brian Murgatroyd, Tim May, the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations chief executive, and a representative from the security firm Nicholls Steyn and Associates. Another ICC group, led by the chief executive Haroon Lorgat, will speak to English and South African players and officials in England next week.

Mills was impressed with the detail of the safety outline, but was concerned how it would work in practice in a country battling political instability and acts of terrorism. "There is no question about the effort put in by the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Pakistan government, the security plans are outstanding," he said. "They're the best we've ever seen for cricket.

"But the fact is they are unproven and we don't know if the plans can be delivered. We need to see them demonstrated. The threat in Pakistan is real. There's a lot of political instability and we've seen more reports of activity by the Taliban."

A television station in Pakistan has carried a warning that members of the Taliban have threatened suicide attacks in Lahore and Karachi. The cities are the only two venues being used during the Champions Trophy, which is due to start on September 12, following the cutting of Rawalpindi from the schedule.

New Zealand have experienced the dangers of touring Pakistan after a bomb exploded near the team's Karachi hotel in 2002. They left the country although, unlike Australia, they have been back, playing a one-day series in 2003-04. Australia have not visited Pakistan since Mark Taylor's outfit went there in 1998.