Pakistan board looks at Sri Lanka option

Monday, February 18, 2008

After India, it's now Sri Lanka that the Pakistan Cricket Board have approached as an alternative in case Australia pull out of their scheduled visit in March-April due to security concerns. Australia are due to tour Pakistan for three Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 match.

However, the trip looked in doubt after Creagh O'Connor, Cricket Australia's chairman, sent a letter to the PCB expressing reservations about the situation in Pakistan. Cricket Australia still intends to send a security delegation to assess the conditions following Pakistan's election, however there have been reports that Australia's players will refuse to tour regardless of the group's findings.

Among the alternatives the Pakistan board is looking at is India. A source said that informal talks had been held with the BCCI about a series of ODIs in Pakistan in case Australia call off the tour.

Pakistan has been in strife over the past few months, with conditions escalating following the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto ahead of the parliamentary elections in January. The postponed vote takes place on February 18, but the trouble hasn't abated, with a suicide car bomber killing 47 people at an election rally on Saturday.

Although Cricket Australia will inspect the situation in Pakistan only after the polls, a three-member PCB delegation has already visited Colombo to discuss matters, according to a report in the Nation quoted by AFP. The report stated that Sri Lanka has been asked to play either a five-match ODI series or three Tests. The Sri Lankans, presently playing the CB Series in Australia, are slated to visit the West Indies in March-April.

Cricket Australia and the PCB are expected to further discuss the fate of the tour this week, during a meeting of ICC chief executives in Kuala Lumpur .

"We are planning to sit down with them in the next few days and we will follow the outcome of the elections with interest,"

Michael Brown, Cricket Australia's operations manager, told the Daily Telegraph.

Australia's players have expressed their reservations over the tour, with their captain Ricky Ponting voicing his concerns. The Pakistan board has also insured against losses in case of a pull-out. Australia have not visited Pakistan since 1998 and played Pakistan at neutral venues in Sri Lanka and Sharjah in 2002. However, Pakistan have ruled out playing this year's series at neutral venues or in Australia.

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