Doubts over Pakistan hosting Champions Trophy (Lead)

June 19th, 2008 - 9:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney/Lahore June 19 (IANS) Serious doubts over Pakistan hosting the Champions Trophy cricket are being expressed as several players from Australia, England and New Zealand reportedly refusing to tour the strife-torn country for fear of security. International Cricket Council (ICC) added to the confusion when its acting chief executive Dave Rcihardson refused to say whether Pakistan is the “final” venue for the biennial event. All he would say was that the governing body of world cricket was monitoring the situation day to day. He was talking to reporters after the launch of the Champions Trophy in Lahore Wednesday.

Even if Cricket Australia decides to overrule the players’ objection and insist on fielding a side, the team would be decimated by player-boycott, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA) has already expressed concern about the safety of players at the Champions Trophy, particularly as the tournament coincides with the holy month of Ramadan in September and is due to begin on the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks on America.

Worldwide various players’ bodies, including New Zealand, Australia and England, have joined the FICA chorus. Cricketers from the three countries are understood to have expressed grave reservations about playing in the tournament, the report said.

Richardson, when asked to confirm Pakistan as final hosts, said: “under the circumstances the world over, no venue can be said as final one and the ICC is in the process of monitoring the situation on day-to-day basis.”

Several leading Australian cricketers have told teammates they would stand down from the tournament rather than tour a nation they deem to be volatile and unsafe.

“It is going to come down to the individual’s decision,” said one member of the team.

“We have talked about it, and there are some guys who will go if security advice says it’s OK. But there are others who have said they won’t go, regardless. At this stage, we are waiting to hear more,” Sydney Morning Herald quoted the player as saying.

Richardson, who is in Pakistan, said they were happy with the arrangements in Pakistan.

“So far we are satisfied with the efforts Pakistan are making and it has our full backing,” he said.

“The security situation anywhere is not good at the moment. It can change any time. At the moment the ICC is quite comfortable with the decision that Pakistan has the ability to hold it and we are proceeding with the arrangements,” Richardson, also a former South African cricketer was quoted as saying in The Dawn.

“Security is ICC first priority, not for Pakistan only but for all other venues too. We are in the process and are hoping that Pakistan will hold the tournament,” he stated.

Cricket Australia (CA) is aware of its players’ concerns and is expected to discuss a confidential ICC security report on Pakistan at an ICC executive meeting in Dubai next month.

Sri Lanka has been identified as an alternative venue for the Champions Trophy if the security situation deteriorates. South Africa is now being touted as an alternative venue as Sri Lanka too is not a safe heaven.

England’s Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) became the latest to voice strong concerns about playing in Pakistan.

PCA chief executive Sean Morris agreed with the assessment of his FICA counterpart Tim May that “absolutely nothing” had changed in Pakistan since Australia abandoned their Test and one-day series scheduled for March and April.

“I personally support Tim’s position,” Morris told The Australian yesterday.

Asked about ICC’s reaction in case any of the member countries refused to participate in the Champions Trophy on security grounds, Richardson said at the moment all the participating countries had signed for the participation and the ICC was making every effort to ensure their safety in Pakistan.

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