Sydney: Australian captain Ricky Ponting has urged his players to focus on the home Test series against India and not on any security fears they may have for the March tour of Pakistan. The assassination last week of Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and subsequent unrest that has left at least 58 people dead have placed a question mark over the tour.
Australia are due to play three Tests, five one-day internationals, and a Twenty20 match in Pakistan in March and April. Ponting said Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA), the players' union, will make an inspection tour of the troubled nation next month. ACA president Paul Marsh is expected to talk to the Australian players during this week's second Test against India, which gets underway at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.
"With the tour being so far away, to the players' credit so far, there hasn't been a great deal of talk about it around the rooms," Ponting told reporters on match-eve here Tuesday. "No doubt sitting back and watching the events of last week in the change rooms probably did create some grave concerns.
Ponting said the team would follow the advice of officials in Australia and those sent to Pakistan to review security arrangements, but added: "It's out of our control for the time being." "With the tour being so far away, we really just have to be thinking about what we've got on now.
It's a big series, this Test series against India. "If we can keep these things out of our head for as long as we can, it will give us a better chance of playing well." All-rounder Andrew Symonds has expressed concerns about the Pakistan tour, while there are reports that security jitters are widespread throughout the Australian team.
Australia's most recent Test tour of Pakistan in 2002-03 was shifted to neutral venues in Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates because of security issues. Ponting said it was his understanding Pakistan would not be prepared to transfer the Australian series to neutral venues this time.
"We haven't played a lot of Test cricket against Pakistan in the last few years," he said. "It would be nice if that happened. I'd rather be playing cricket than not playing cricket."