Australia set to cancel tour to Pakistan

December 29th, 2007 - 1:55 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
Melbourne, Dec.29 (ANI): The Australian cricket team is almost certain to cancel a tour of Pakistan this March.
Cricket Australia said it was monitoring the situation, but stark warnings posted on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website yesterday strongly advised against visits.
“We continue to receive a stream of credible reports indicating terrorists are in the advanced stages of planning attacks. These attacks could target Western or Australian interests and individuals and places frequented by foreigners,” The Australian quoted the Foreign Office advisory, as saying.
Australia is due to leave in mid-March to play three Tests and five one-day games.
Players have expressed reservations about the tour even before the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
Test batsman Michael Clarke said he would leave the decision to the Australian Cricketers Association and Cricket Australia.
“We are out of our depths, it’s something we probably shouldn’t even comment on because we don’t know enough about it, or I certainly don’t know enough about it,” The Australian quoted Clarke, as saying.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said yesterday his Government would provide advice to the cricketers.
“Our first and foremost concern, like Cricket Australia’s, is the safety and security of the Australian cricket team and we will be providing, through the Government, every source of information necessary for Cricket Australia to be making an informed judgment about the future of that particular tour,” he said.
Australia cancelled a Test series against Pakistan after bombings in 2002, playing the games at neutral venues. The Pakistan Cricket Board has said it would not allow this to happen again.
Australian-born Pakistan cricket coach Geoff Lawson returned from the country before Christmas and is seeking further advice before returning.
“I’m making informal investigations with people I know in Pakistan to get their opinions,” Lawson said.
Meanwhile, according to a Fox Sports report, the Pakistan Cricket Board has urged Cricket Australia to keep an open mind, insisting that sporting figures were not the target.
PCB chief operating officer Shafqat Naghmi said from Lahore that he hoped Ricky Ponting’s team would make the trip.
“We would like Australia to come to Pakistan, of course, but I have a feeling Australia would like a second look,” Naghmi said.
“But the tour is in March and I am sure the current situation will improve. If they get back to us, we will give them all the assurances we can.
Cricket journalists in Pakistan concede there is a “pretty bleak” chance the tour would go ahead as major cities Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi - where Bhutto was killed - were mired in trouble.
The situation is so bad that former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, in Melbourne as a television commentator, said he now feared for the safety of cricket great turned politician Imran Khan.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said a final decision on the tour would be made in consultation with the Federal Government.
Australian Cricketers’ Association chief executive Paul Marsh said the current trouble was “concerning” but there were no plans to scrap the trip. (ANI)

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