Kuala Lumpur: Australia will send a security team to Pakistan early next month to decide if an upcoming cricket tour can go ahead following political unrest and violence, officials said on Tuesday.
If the security team gives the go-ahead, the tour that comprises three Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 match will be shortened from 48 days to 30 days and begin from March 29.
Officials of Australia and Pakistan, who met in the Malaysian capital on the sidelines of an International Cricket Council meeting, decided to make efforts to ensure the tour took place.
The tour, which hangs in the balance following media reports that Australian players were unwilling to visit Pakistan over security concerns, was originally scheduled to start on March 10.
"Cricket Australia will send its recce team to Pakistan in early March to assess the venues and security arrangements," a statement released by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said.
"Subject to appropriate security clearance and by mutual consent, the tour would be compressed and will be played tentatively between March 29 and April 27, 2008."
PCB chief operating officer Shafqat Naghmi said he was delighted Australia had not given up on the tour.
"I am glad that we had very open and fruitful discussions with Cricket Australia where we were assured that they were committed to touring Pakistan," Naghmi said in a statement.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland added: "We remain committed to tour Pakistan this March/April.
"The PCB's preparedness to take a flexible approach to this tour is much appreciated. The delay will certainly assist us to better assess the post-election situation in Pakistan."
While the dates of the tour have been agreed in principle, the contents and format of the tour itinerary will be finalised by both boards next week, the PCB statement added.
Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998. They forced Pakistan to play on neutral venues of Sri Lanka and Sharjah in 2002, a year after the 9/11 attacks on the United States and subsequent US-led campaign in Afghanistan sparked security fears in South Asia.
Pakistan have ruled out playing the latest series on neutral venues or relocating it to Australia.
The PCB said earlier it had promised personal bodyguards and sniffer dogs to protect Australian players as part of planned stringent security usually reserved for visiting heads of state.
Every Australian player would be provided bodyguards, while roads would be closed to all traffic when the tourists travelled to and from the grounds, officials had said.