Karachi: Pakistan cricket stands to lose much of its domestic audience and income essential for a healthy future of the game in the wake of Australia's decision to pull out of a planned October tour, officials and former players said on Saturday.
"We are disappointed and so are Pakistani cricket fans as Australia's pull-out will prompt a decline in local interest in the game and cause a loss in profits," Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) director Chishty Mujahid said. Australia ended long-running uncertainty over the October Test tour Friday by announcing it was withdrawing over security concerns. Pakistan's cricket crazy fans have watched only three Tests and as many One-day Internationals on home grounds since December 2000 following cancellations by India, the West Indies and now Australia to compete in the troubled Islamic republic. New Zealand, having already postponed its scheduled tour of Pakistan a week after September 11 attacks, cut short its rescheduled tour when a suicide bomb blast killed 14 people outside its hotel on May 8. India is the next team on Pakistan's home series calendar with competition due to take place in April. But the tour is unlikely to take place amid friction between the nuclear-armed South Asian rivals over Kashmir. This leaves Pakistan likely to host only minnows Bangladesh in September next year, a series that is unlikely to generate much interest. "Its very, very unfortunate for Pakistan cricket that we can't play cricket at home, but international events are beyond our control," said former captain Intikhab Alam. "Australia's decision is understandable and we must realise that if, God forbid, any mishap had occurred when they were here, where would Pakistan cricket stand then?" he said. Alam also rejected the idea of staging an Asian boycott of Australia. "Pakistan would not be able to achieve anything from a boycott," he said. The Former secretary of Asian Cricket Council (ACC), Zakir Hussain Syed, said Pakistan's problems were serious. "Pakistan's problems are serious and the International Cricket Council (ICC) and ACC must decide a course of action and sort out ways to help Pakistan," Syed said. Since the United States began its war on terror in neighbouring Afghanistan last year, security fears have forced Pakistan and the West Indies to shift their series to Sharjah in February-March this year. Pakistan also had to relocate its Golden Jubilee year tri-series to be played later this month and also involving Australia, to Nairobi. "The PCB has various options after Australia's pull-out and playing at a neutral venue is one of them. After consulting with the government we will take a decision on that in a couple of days," the PCB's Mujahid said. Bangladesh is one of three neutral venues suggested for the series, with Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates also offering their grounds for the series. On the monetary front, Pakistan has incurred losses of around $ 25 million in the last two years. Former captain Imran Khan said Australia's withdrawal was a serious financial blow to Pakistan cricket. "Pakistan is financially devastated and if we fail to stage a home series than the PCB could go bankrupt," Khan said. "You can't get prosperous by playing outside - in cricket only home series earn you good amounts," he said. But ICC finance committee head Ehsan Mani, a Pakistani, disagreed. "There is no question of the PCB going bankrupt because constant funding are provided to member countries," said Mani, who will take over as ICC president next year. "Pakistan will get around $ 7 million from the 2003 World Cup and then another $ 9 million from the 2007 World Cup, besides various other funds like a share of the ICC Champions Trophy," he said.
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