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Pakistan says no to neutral venue

Lahore, Dec 18 (UNI) Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has made it clear that the home series against world champions Australia will not be shifted to a neutral venue due to security concerns.

Speculations are rife that Aussies are reluctant to visit the country due to threat perception. But PCB's Chief Operating Officer (COO) Shafqat Naghmi told 'The News' that shifting the series (against Australia) was not an option.

''We are confident that the Australians will come and play here according to schedule,'' said Mr Naghmi.

Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds few weeks back, began the debate over whether the Australians should tour Pakistan when he said, ''There do seem to be a lot of bombs going off over there. At the end of the day it is only a game of cricket.'' The Australian Cricket Association (ACA) also raised the issue.

ACA president Darren Lehmann stressed that Australia's tour should be cancelled, or moved to a neutral venue, if there was any risk to player safety.

Ruling out the option of moving the series to a neutral venue, Mr Naghmi said,''Either the series will be played in Pakistan or be cancelled but there will be no neutral venue.'' According to the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Future Tour Programme (FTP), Pakistan are to pay a return visit to Australia starting next December. The tour may be jeopardised if the Australians refused to visit Pakistan. However, Mr Naghmi refrained from commenting on it.

''We believe that the Australians will not be at any risk in Pakistan but still they would be provided with fool-proof security cover during the tour,'' he said.

He added that ACA and Cricket Australia (CA) delegates will visit Pakistan next month to review the situation here.

''The Australian delegation will come here in January after the general elections. We are confident that they would agree to send their team for the series,'' the COO said.

The Australian team is supposed to play three Tests, five one-dayers and a Twenty20 International during March-April next year.

Australia's three-Test tour of Pakistan in 2002-03 was shifted to Colombo and Sharjah because of security issues.


Story first published: Tuesday, December 18, 2007, 12:38 [IST]
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