Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ICC to hold teleconference on Sunday

While officials debate the staging of the Champions Trophy, Andy Atkinson, the ICC grounds consultant, was in Karachi on Wednesday to inspect the conditions at the National Stadium.

The ICC board will have a telephone hook-up on Sunday, where a final decision on staging the Champions Trophy in Pakistan is expected. Top ICC officials, including president David Morgan, vice-president Sharad Pawar and chief executive Haroon Lorgat met in Dubai on Wednesday to discuss feedback from task force briefings with stakeholders from England, Australia and New Zealand, and decided to hold a teleconference of the task team on Friday, followed by the board meeting two days later.

The task team has already met with officials and players' representatives in New Zealand, Australia and England in a bid to allay their security fears, but the feedback hasn't been encouraging. Players' associations from New Zealand and Australia have advised their members against visiting the tournament starting on September 12. The boards haven't yet taken their stance, with Cricket Australia non-committal over its team's participation, and they are expected to convey their final decision to the ICC on Sunday.

Prior to the telephone hook-ups is the task team's visit to South Africa, whose board have been supportive of Pakistan hosting the tournament. However, Lorgat, leading the delegation, might once again find it tough to convince the players.

Tony Irish, the South African Cricketers' Association (SACA) chief executive, told Cricinfo the South African team had their doubts over their safety after going through a number of security assessment reports, including that of ICC's official security consultant. Irish said he would raise these concerns during the Friday meeting. "We remain concerned about the security situation in Pakistan," he said. "Our board is meeting with the ICC on Friday, and I will be present at that meeting to convey our concerns."

Explaining the South African situation, Irish said the security report submitted by Reg Dickason, an independent security consultant would not be considered as he was engaged only by the players' associations of Australia, New Zealand and England. But Irish suggested the South African players, who are currently touring England, remain unconvinced after evaluating separate assessments by the ICC, FICA and the South African government.

"We have taken note of various security assessment reports, including one from the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA), Nicholls-Steyn, the ICC consultants, and another by our own government," he said. "I have also been in constant touch with our players (in England) over this and the mood among them is that the concerns remain."

Last week, the weekly Rapport newspaper had reported that DJ Mavimbela, the country's high commissioner in Pakistan, had sent a letter to Cricket South Africa warning it of a risk to players' safety in the country.