Aussies postpone Pak tour over security fears

Reuters
Mar 11, 2008 at 03:14pm IST

Sydney: Australia have postponed their planned tour of Pakistan because of fears over the safety of their players.

The world champions were due to visit Pakistan at the end of this month for a 30-day tour but put the trip on hold after a spate of suicide bombings following the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto late last year.

"We are very sorry that the tour could not take place at this time," Cricket Australia (CA) chairman Creagh O'Connor said in a joint statement released on Tuesday.

DELAYED: The Chairmen of the two boards will meet in Dubai next weekend to further discuss possible dates for the deferred tour.

"This was a difficult decision based on independent review of the circumstances prevailing in Pakistan at the moment."

"We wish no loss to Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and look forward to undertaking this tour in the near future."

PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf said he was disappointed the tour had been postponed but was hopeful it could be rescheduled in the near future.

Both boards have already agreed to meet at the International Cricket Council's headquarters in Dubai next week to discuss the possibility of holding the tour either next year or in 2010.

"I guess there is not much we could do and sincerely hope that the tour of Australia to Pakistan can materialise at the earliest opportunity," Ashraf said in the statement.

Australia had proposed to play the series at a neutral venue but the PCB declined, offering instead to reduce the number of match venues and provide unprecedented protection to the players.

CA chief executive James Sutherland said he sympathised with the PCB's position but Australia had no alternative other than to postpone the tour after taking advice from the government and independent security experts.

No Alternative

"We left no stone unturned in trying to ensure that the tour would proceed," Sutherland told a news conference in Melbourne that was broadcast live on Australian television.

"But at the end of the day, for us, the safety and security of our employees must come first and we've been left with no alternative than to arrive at this decision."

"We wanted the tour to go ahead. We want to play cricket against Pakistan and ideally we want to play in Pakistan but right now, it's not appropriate for us to play in Pakistan."

The Australian government have already issued travel warnings advising nationals not to visit Pakistan and Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Smith said CA had made the right decision in delaying the series.

"I am of the strong view that the safety and welfare of the players and the touring group has been uppermost in the minds of Cricket Australia in making this decision," Smith said in a statement.

"The Australian Government takes very seriously the safety of all Australians travelling overseas and we recognise the difficult political and security challenges the Pakistan Government is currently facing."

Australia have not played a test match in Pakistan since 1998, with their three-test tour scheduled for four years later moved to Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates because of security issues.

Doubts about this year's tour proceeding had been steadily increasing since Bhutto was assassinated on December 27 with several senior Australian players publicly expressing their reservations about visiting Pakistan.

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