Sydney : Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik has pleaded with the Australian cricketers not to call off their tour to Pakistan in March as that would damage the game in his country.
Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan has also expressed confidence that the tour should come through and he sees no threat to the Australian cricketers.
Expressing optimism that the unrest in Pakistan, in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, would end long before the Australians land in March, Malik offered to personally field phone calls from players who have concerns about touring his country.
“I would like to speak to them personally and tell them that we will have good security for them in Pakistan,” Malik was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald.
Malik said he hoped to convince the Australian players to go ahead with the series and said: “India have come here and there was a lot of talk then, but in the end there was no problem. It will be the same for Australia.
“I do not want to comment about the politics. I am a sportsman, and not very good at talking about politics. But I would like to say that with what is happening in my country, it is getting under control, and it will get better. There is still more than two months (before the Australians’ arrival).
“They are the best team in the world at the moment, and there are many fans in Pakistan who would love to see them. Hayden, Ponting, Symonds are all very good players, and we have also got a good side to play them. It would be bad for the game and for the people in Pakistan if they did not come.”
Malik’s sentiments were echoed Monday by former captain Imran, who is now the leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party. Imran, who was jailed on charges of terrorism levelled by Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf in November, to be released a week later, said rioting in Pakistan had already been quelled, and normality should be restored to the nation in two to three weeks.
“I don’t think the cricketers have any threat at all,” Imran told Melbourne radio station 3AW. “This is not going to last two months when the Australians appear. In the context of cricket, there will be nothing to worry about if the tour is in March. I don’t think the Australians should have any worries.”
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has previously stated it will not consider playing the series in a neutral venue, and the board’s chairman, Nasim Ashraf, assured that the Australian team would be given the same level of security as a visiting head of state.