Unrest In Pakistan, But Cricket Australia Tour Must Go On

3 01 2008

Shoaib MalikOr so says Shoaib Malik, the captain of the Pakistan Cricket Team to the Australian Team, in an attempt to allay fears of the massive upheaval following the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto last week.

Nasim Ashraf – Pakistan Cricket’s most senior official – has ruled out playing in a neutral country the tour somewhere other than Pakistan (Sydney Morning Herald). 
He stated he’d rather risk cancellation by Australia (and that would mean the loss of millions in revenue) over transferring the tour to a neutral venue.

Several Australian players have asserted that if there is any question over safety at all, then they will pull out of the team.  All-rounder star Andrew Symonds has voiced concerns over safety, but AFP reports that security fears are more widespread than just one or two players.

“It would be naive to think that everybody was rosy with going. Some people are going to have stronger opinions on it than others.”

Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik has offered to personally field phone calls from Australian players who have fears over touring his homeland (The Age). 
Malik expressed concerns that an Australian withdrawal would cause serious damage to cricket in Pakistan, and he was quite optimistic that the social unrest would abate prior to Australia’s arrival in Pakistan in March.

“I do not want to comment about the politics. I am a sportsman and not very good about talking about politics. But I would like to say that with what is happening in my country, it is getting under control, and it will get better.”

And Nasim Ashraf is resolute on playing in Pakistan.  He believes that it’ll all be ok by March.

“Our sense is that there will be complete normalcy in the country by the time the Australians arrive.  I can tell you categorically that neutral venues are not an option for Pakistan.”

This could lead to Cricket Australia being fined by the ICC if they decide that it’s still too dangerous to travel to Pakistan… to the tune of $2million US or more. 
However, if the ICC assesses that Pakistan is indeed too dangerous for a touring side, then Pakistan ruling out a neutral venue for the series could cost them millions upon millions in lost revenue. 

Ricky PontingAustralian Captain Ricky Ponting has stated that he’s completely amenable to playing Pakistan in another country. 
He does have concerns about the safety of playing in Pakistan, and stated that whilst he’d love to be playing cricket against Pakistan in Pakistan, safety must come first. 
Ponting did go on to say tho’ that the Australian team would be guided by security experts both within Cricket Australia & within Pakistan.

It would be a great pity if two of the best cricketing nations could not play this series.  But Pakistan needs to relax their “here or nowhere” stance.  Should the fears of CA & the ICC be put to rest, then fine – Pakistan it is.  But if Pakistan’s deemed too dangerous a country to play in, then the series should be moved to a neutral venue – despite misgivings from the Pakistan’s cricket hierarchy.

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