ACB officials play down Pak tour security fears

Published: Friday, March 1, 2002, 22:55 [IST]
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Karachi: Australian cricket officials on Friday played down security concerns over their October tour of Pakistan and said it should go ahead.

"Pakistan is no different from other countries and we are proceeding on the basis that the tour will go ahead, once the facilities and security of our players are guaranteed," Richard Watson, Australian Cricket Board (ACB) manager of cricket operations, told reporters while inspecting the National Stadium. "We don't treat Pakistan as any different from Sri Lanka or England or South Africa," he said. "We do the same check list and do the same negotiations in every country." Watson, along with former Test off spinner and Australian Cricketers Association chief Tim May, and ACB security manager Reg Dickson will also visit Faisalabad, Multan, Shiekhupura and Lahore. They will meet Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), police and government officials. May denied Test captain Steve Waugh or any players had reservations about touring Pakistan. "Steve has full confidence in me and there are no specific worries," May said. "There are some places different from others but we are impressed with what we have seen in one day," he said. The officials are to draw up an itinerary for the tour in which Australia is due to play three Tests and as many One-day Internationals. "We believe the sooner we do our checks the better and we could sign off on what we believe would be the circumstances some months down the track," Watson said. He refused to comment on current Pakistan-India tensions following the December attack on India's parliament, which New Delhi has blamed on Pakistan-linked militants. "I am not going to get into politics, we are just here for the cricket side. We don't get involved in politics and if we can guarantee safety of the players and facilities the game will go on and we will tour." West Indies refused to tour Pakistan in January, citing fears for players' security over the Afghan war and border tensions. Watson said it was up to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to guarantee the safety of the tourists. While he would discuss his findings in Australia, "More importantly it is with the PCB to make sure of the teams safety and we've got every confidence in them being able to arrange that." Its main task was to squeeze three Tests and three or five One-day matches between the International Cricket Council (ICC) knockout event in September and the Ashes back home starting from November 7, he said. International cricket is set to return to Pakistan next week with the final of the Asian Test championship (ATC) as the hosts play Sri Lanka in Lahore from March 6-10. Pakistan played only one home Test last year, against Bangladesh in August, as New Zealand cancelled its tour of Pakistan four days after the September 11 attacks on the United States. New Zealand is likely to reschedule its cancelled series from April 20-May 18 this year to play two Tests and three One-dayers.

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