Lawson’s ’special mission’ fuels speculations in Pakistan

August 12th, 2008 - 5:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Karachi, Aug 12 (IANS) Geoff Lawson flew out of Lahore for hometown Sydney late Monday night, fuelling speculations that his turbulent stint as Pakistan cricket coach might be over. But a senior Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Tuesday official quashed such rumours saying that Lawson has been sent on a ’special mission’ Down Under.

According to Shafqat Naghmi, PCB’s chief operating officer, Lawson’s task is to convince top Australian and New Zealand cricketers that Pakistan is a safe place for them to visit and play in next month’s Champions Trophy.

“He (Lawson) is one of their (Australia’s) own and his word would carry a lot of weight,” said Naghmi.

Pakistan are to host the eight-nation Champions Trophy Sept 12-28 but the event is under a cloud because of security concerns expressed by leading world cricketers like Andrew Symonds, Jacob Oram and Graeme Smith.

There have been reports that these players along with several others from Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa might boycott the biennial spectacle in case it is held in Pakistan.

Naghmi said the Task Force, headed by International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Haroon Lorgat will help clear the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the Champions Trophy.

He said that Lawson’s trip to Australia and New Zealand has also been planned by the Task Force that was formed by the ICC following a teleconference between the ten full members of the game’s governing body last month.

“The ICC wanted Lawson to play a role in paving the way for a smooth Champions Trophy and requested us to release him for a few days,” said Naghmi.

“We agreed because there is a big possibility that he will be able to convince players from Australia and New Zealand about their safety here.”

Lawson was appointed Pakistan coach last summer and has since then spent a lot of time in Lahore where he is staying at the National Cricket Academy located in the heart of the city. He walks in the areas around the NCA quite routinely and has never faced any trouble.

While the PCB has rubbished suggestions that there might be more to Lawson’s sudden departure, there have been speculations that the former Australian Test pacer headed for home after a spat with some national selectors in Lahore on Monday.

There have been rumours that Lawson, who can be a volatile character, clashed with the selectors over the formation of the 15-member Pakistan team for the Champions Trophy and later barged out of the meeting in protest. Later he packed his bags and boarded a flight to Sydney, said a report in a local TV channel.

But PCB’s media chief Mansur Sohail denied such reports. “There are always some differences of opinion but to say that the coach and the selectors clashed is totally false,” he said. “Lawson gave his input to the selectors and left the meeting in totally normal circumstances.

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