Andrew Symonds says he is likely to pull out of Australia's tour of Pakistan next month even if Cricket Australia declares the country safe to visit. Symonds has voiced his concerns about playing cricket in Pakistan following the assassination of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December, but he made his position even plainer when speaking on Australian television on Wednesday.
"I don't think I would go,"
he told Channel Ten.
"I just dread to think what would happen if someone got hurt, let alone killed. It's just a situation you'd never want to find yourself in."
Symonds said Cricket Australia was aware of his views about the tour, which may be delayed by a month and shortened by 18 days after officials of the two boards met in Kuala Lumpur to thrash out a deal to save the trip.
The players are so concerned about the safety situation in the country, which held elections on Monday, that there are reports other individuals may also boycott the visit and a second-string side might have to be sent. Last week the Australian said some players were reluctant to travel to Pakistan and the Herald Sun has quoted an unnamed team source saying:
"There is no way the players want to go."
"Nothing has changed,"
the paper reported a "high-ranking cricket source".
"A few weeks isn't going to make much difference here or there. There are a lot of players who will decide not to go. Australia may have to field a second-string side if the tour goes ahead."
The original 48-day itinerary has been culled to 30 in a bid to stop the trip being cancelled and the schedule of three Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 will be reviewed. Cricket Australia is due to send a security delegation to Pakistan in early March - if it is safe - to assess the venues and off-field arrangements. A joint statement by the boards said:
"Subject to the appropriate security clearance, and by mutual consent, the tour would be compressed and will be played tentatively between March 29 and April 27."
"We were assured that Cricket Australia was committed to touring Pakistan,"
Shafqat Naghmi, Pakistan's chief operating officer, said after talks in Kuala Lumpur. James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, said Australia
"remain committed to tour Pakistan and the PCB's preparedness to take a flexible approach to this tour is much appreciated".
"This delay will certainly assist us to better assess the post-election situation in Pakistan,"
Sutherland said. Last week Pakistan suggested Sri Lanka as an alternative venue if Australia was not content with the security arrangements, and India has also been mentioned as a possible substitute.