Aussies wary of playing in Sharjah due to Iraq crisis

Published: Thursday, September 26, 2002, 20:40 [IST]
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New Delhi: After refusing to tour Pakistan due to security fears, Australia's cricketers are now uneasy about playing two Test matches in the United Arab Emirates next month.

Australia is due to play a three-Test series against Pakistan at neutral venues from next Thursday, with the first Test in Colombo and the remaining two in the Gulf emirate of Sharjah. Australian coach John Buchanan, in Sri Lanka for the ongoing Champions Trophy, said his players had talked about the dangers of playing in Sharjah because of the possible US-led strikes against Iraq. "There has been some talk on this," Buchanan told from Colombo. "It all boils down to the advice we get from the Australian Cricket Board (ACB). "If they say it's fine to go, we'll go there and play. I don't think we'll be sent to places if they (the ACB) think we'll be in danger." The Australians are concerned at reports that the United States and Britain were pressing for military action in Baghdad, geographically close to the UAE, team sources said. The players' main concern is getting out of Sharjah if there is a conflict, even though the UAE itself is considered a safe place, the source added. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), which has not yet been told of the players' fears, is unlikely to take kindly to any moves to reschedule the series again. The PCB claims it has lost more than $ 20 million in sponsorships because of the lack of international matches at home since the anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan and border tensions with India. Australia had refused to play a World Cup match in Sri Lanka in 1996 following a bomb blast in central Colombo, which killed more than 90 people.

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