London, Aug.20 : England's cricketers may follow their Australian counterparts in opting out of the Champions Trophy in Pakistan, citing security concerns.
Australian players became the first to break rank and withdraw from next month's Champions Trophy in Pakistan.
The players from New Zealand and South Africa have also expressed severe reservations about visiting the volatile country.
Though the ICC has briefed the boards of these four countries about the security aspect of the tournament in considerable detai, the players are adamant about not going.
The aim of the ICC group was to alleviate the fears of players and officials from these countries, convincing them it was safe to participate in the tournament.
The briefings, however, do not appear to have made any impression and the decision of Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, to stand down after eight-and-a-half years in charge can hardly be seen as a move that would decrease the chances of bombs going off in the country.
Paul Marsh, the head of the Australian Cricketers Association, said that the danger posed by suicide bombers could not be eased, even with beefed-up security.
"Our position is that we can't recommend the players tour Pakistan for the Champions Trophy. Obviously, we put a position forward a few weeks ago to that effect but we said we would keep an open mind with the taskforce, which we did. We heard them speak on Friday. Now we have had a chance to digest it, our position hasn't changed," The Independent quoted Marsh, as saying.
New Zealand's player's union representative Heath Mills expressed similar reservations last week and it would be a major surprise if New Zealand failed to follow Australia's example.
The rejection may finally force the International Cricket Council to move the tournament as ICC president David Morgan was flying from Beijing to Dubai for an urgent meeting on the troubled event.
The unwavering stance from the game's leading cricket team follows an angry reaction from the New Zealand players to an ICC taskforce last week.
Sources in London claim there was an equally adverse reaction from the England players at a meeting with ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat in Edinburgh on Sunday night.
Cricket Australia hinted it publicly opposed playing the Champions Trophy in Pakistan but in the politically charged environment refused to say so officially.
Story first published: Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 14:15 [IST]
Other articles published on Aug 20, 2008