Ponting airs players’ worries in going to Pakistan(Lead)

June 20th, 2008 - 8:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney/Bridgetown, June 20 (IANS) Skipper Ricky Ponting spoke up for his paranoid teammates on their security concerns in going to Pakistan to defend the Champions Trophy and Cricket Australia (CA) is dispatching a security expert to the strife-torn country to assess the situation. Ponting admitted Friday that his team is haunted by security fears in travelling to Pakistan after having called-off a tour to that country in March-April. The players are concerned about playing in the dangerously unsettled country so soon, according to a report in The Australian.

Security consultant Reg Dickason, the man who advised CA to cancel the Test and One-Day series, is going again to Pakistan to assess the security situation for the biennial event. He has worked with the Australian team for a decade and was also with the England and New Zealand teams. He was in Karachi when the Kiwis were bombed out of Pakistan in 2002.

“You don’t have to be Einstein to figure there will be some concern among our team. It’s not just because we’re Australian cricketers. Anyone travelling to Pakistan would have some sort of concern,” Ponting was quoted as saying in The Australian Friday.

The skipper added his doubts to the growing concerns his team and players worldwide have in touring Pakistan in the holy month of Ramadan in September, which is also the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks on America.

“It is going to be up to people in higher places than us to decide if it is any better than it was three or four months ago.”

Ponting’s concerns have been reflected much more strongly from player associations in Australia, New Zealand and England, and the Federation of International Cricketers Associations (FICA).

Several leading Australian cricketers have reportedly said they would stand down from the Champions Trophy rather than tour a nation they deem to be volatile and unsafe.

Ponting said no player would be forced to tour if the team receives the all-clear to compete in the Champions Trophy.

“We’ll see what eventuates in coming weeks. It would be great for the game and great for Pakistan if the tournament went ahead,” Ponting said.

“We all know you’re expected to go contractually if selected on the tour, but it will come down to the individual and what they feel at the time,” he said.

However, the captain said the decision on title-holder Australia’s participation in the elite eight-team tournament would rest with CA and the Australian Cricketers Association.

“Hopefully, by that stage we’ll have a lot more informed opinion. There hasn’t been any talk about it at the moment, but you only have to turn the clock back a few months to understand there was some concerns then.

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.

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