Australian cricketers to boycott Pakistan tour

Sydney, Feb 13 (IANS) Despite threats of dire consequences by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Australian cricketers have made it clear privately that they would pull out of the series in the terror-gripped South Asian country, it was reported by the media here Wednesday.

According to a report in the Australian, the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) and Cricket Australia (CA) have reacted cautiously to the players’ boycott claim Wednesday.

Support TwoCircles

CA and the ACA are preparing to be part of a security assessment, which is due to visit Pakistan after postponed parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for Monday. However, even the security inspection is in doubt because of the rising level of violence.

“We are aware of the significant concerns that the players have and their concerns we share,” CA public affairs manager Peter Young was quoted as saying by the national daily.

“We’re still moving through a process and we have a way to go before that process is finalised. It’s completely natural for anybody reading the media to be concerned about what’s going on in Pakistan, but we need to go behind the media reports and understand the actuality. There is still a little way to go before we have a definitive picture on that,” he added.

The PCB had already ruled out the possibility of playing the series – comprising three Tests, five one-day matches and a Twenty20 game – at a neutral venue and have also threatened to pull out from the return tour in 2009. Australia can lose millions of dollar, as any team, which fails to fulfill its obligations under the future tours program of the International Cricket Council (ICC) without adequate reason, such as safety and security, can be liable to millions of dollars in fines.

CA chairman Creagh O’Connor has written to PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf outlining Australian’s concerns. Ashraf, however, claimed the letter said that independent security experts have advised CA against touring Pakistan next month.

“In the letter, they have reiterated their commitment to supporting us but at the same time they have said they have security briefings, advising them against playing in Pakistan at this time,” Ashraf said.

Ashraf said he had told CA it should send a security delegation one week after the general elections, again saying that cricketers were safe in Pakistan and no touring team’s safety have been affected in any series.

Young explained that Australia had not made any decision to abandon the tour and added: “Broadly, the letter reiterates there are some significant obstacles but that’s not to say the obstacles are locked doors.”

He also played down threats attributed to the PCB that if Australia did not tour Pakistan then it would refuse to tour Australia as scheduled next year.

“We’re obviously keen to see them here and the circumstances of them visiting here have to be considered in isolation at that time,” Young said.

CA chief executive James Sutherland reiterated that Australia has not toured Pakistan for ten years and wanted to go if the circumstances were right.

“We need Pakistan cricket to be strong and healthy if we are to have a genuinely global sport,” Sutherland said.

Suicide bombers have wrecked election meetings in Pakistan. Security fears have prompted many candidates to curb campaigning since former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by a bombing and gun attack following a political rally two days after Christmas.