Cricket Australia to rush security expert to Pakistan

June 20th, 2008 - 3:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, June 20 (IANS) Stung by the strong resentment among its players to visiting Pakistan to defend their Champions Trophy, Cricket Australia (CA) is rushing in security consultant Reg Dickason to the strife-torn country to assess the security situation for the biennial event in September. Dickason is the person on whose advice the CA had called off Australia’s tour to Pakistan for Tests and One-Day series in March-April.

An expert on security in Asia, Dickason has worked with the Australian team for a decade and is now in the West Indies with the side, according to a report in The Australian.

Dickson has also worked with the England and New Zealand teams and was in Karachi when the Kiwis were bombed out of Pakistan in 2002.

Australian skipper Ricky Ponting added his doubts to a growing list of concerns about playing in the dangerously unsettled country so soon after calling off their tour.

“You don’t have to be Einstein to figure there will be some concern among our team,” Ponting was quoted as saying in the media.

However, the captain said the decision on Australia’s participation in the elite eight-team tournament would rest with CA and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) following Dickason’s assessment.

“We’ll know a lot more about it then but for us at the moment it’s business as usual,” said Ponting, who is preparing for today’s Twenty20 match against the West Indies in Barbados and then the five-match one-day series.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) continues to issue dire travel warnings for people wanting to visit Pakistan, citing the risk of widespread violence and terrorist bombings.

The Australian consulates in Lahore and Karachi, two of the three Champions Trophy venues, have been closed indefinitely.

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 and is due to begin on the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks on America.

Worldwide various players’ bodies from New Zealand, Australia and England have also joined the FICA chorus.

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

CA is aware of its players’ concerns but has publicly stated its preference for the team to play in Pakistan in accordance with the International Cricket Council’s wishes. CA chief executive James Sutherland is expected to discuss a confidential ICC security report on Pakistan at an ICC executive meeting in Dubai next week.

Sri Lanka has been identified as an alternative venue for the Champions Trophy if the security situation deteriorates. However, the island nation carries the same level of DFAT travel warning as Pakistan. Hostilities between government forces and the Tamil Tigers have intensified since 2007, and Tamil suicide bombers have frequently attacked civilian targets in Colombo this year.

South Africa is now being touted as an alternative venue, although only if the worst occurs.

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