Government Advice Prompted Oz To Pull Out

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cricket Australia took the decision to postpone their tour of Pakistan on government advice, according to chief executive James Sutherland.

Sutherland confirmed the one-day world champions would not be travelling to Pakistan for a three-Test series, which was scheduled to start on March 29, due to security concerns.

There have been a number of bomb blasts in Pakistan since the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto - the latest of which occurred in Lahore and is reported to have killed 24 people.

"Ultimately the starting point is to look at the Federal Government's advice to Australian travellers to Pakistan and it's not favourable,"

Sutherland said.

"The question for us was to then have a closer look and say what are the implications for the Australian cricket team given those quite serious warnings that are in place on the DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) website?"

The Australian players, particularly all-rounder Andrew Symonds, had expressed their concerns about going to Pakistan but Sutherland said this was not a factor in Australia postponing the tour.

"We understand some players may have had feelings about the tour but from Cricket Australia's perspective we had an absolute obligation that we were committed to (going to Pakistan) under the future tours programme and if the safety and security warnings had been sufficient for us to tour then we would have toured."

Cricket Australia (CA) told the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) they were willing to play the series in a third country.

But the PCB instead agreed to postpone the series in the hope it could be re-scheduled in Pakistan at a later date following a week of deliberations.

Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998 with the three-Test series in 2002 staged at neutral venues in Colombo in Sri Lanka and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

Sutherland is hopeful Australia might be able to tour Pakistan in 2009 or 2010 provided the security situation improves in a country which has seen more than 600 people die in suicide attacks this year alone.

"We want the tour to go ahead, we want to play cricket against Pakistan and we want to play ideally in Pakistan but right now it's not appropriate to be playing in Pakistan,"

Sutherland added.

"But that is not to say that at some stage in the not too distant future things won't have settled down and we will be able to play in Pakistan.

"There are a couple of windows in 2009 and 2010 and it might take a little bit of massaging in order to make that happen but that is what we are setting our sights on at the moment."

Sutherland said he could understand the PCB not moving the series to a neutral venue given the 2002 series was played in front of almost empty stadia.

"Playing at a neutral venue was one of the options that was certainly put on the table but at the end of the day that is something for the Pakistan Cricket Board because it's their tour and we certainly sympathise with their position in that they desperately want the tour to go ahead in Pakistan."

The International Cricket Council (ICC) have the power to fine Cricket Australia if it was felt there was insufficient justification for refusing to tour.

But the ICC insist that was not on their agenda.

"No, since it was a mutual decision between the two cricket boards there is no question of the ICC imposing any fines,"

a spokesman told PA Sport.

"It is a joint declaration, it is not a cancellation, it is a postponement.

"Both the boards can mutually postpone a tour.

"It has happened in the past, it is a decision the boards have taken so we support it."

Pakistan cricket chief Nasim Ashraf insisted conditions in the country remained conducive to hosting international sporting events despite Australia's decision to postpone their tour.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ashraf said:

"We maintain conditions are still conducive to hold cricket events in Pakistan.

"Our security plans have also been very good. Teams have toured Pakistan in recent times and have had no problems.

"The Australians have based their decision on their own assessment of the security situation in Pakistan."

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