'No Aussie to be forced to play in CT'

CA on Sunday said players would not be forced to participate in the September event if they give "genuine reasons" for their pullout.

updated: July 09, 2008 17:13 IST
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Raising the spectre of Australia fielding an under-strength team in the Champions Trophy in Pakistan, CA chairman Creagh O'Connor on Sunday said players would not be forced to participate in the September event if they give "genuine reasons" for their pullout.

"We have always believed that Australia would be sending their team at this stage. We will however not force any player to go anywhere ... if he has a legitimate reason not to do so," O'Connor told 'Geo TV'.

"At this stage we are planning to send our team. The individual requirement of the players is a matter of their conscience and comfort," he added.

O'Connor is here to attend the Asia Cup final and the silver jubilee celebrations of the Asian Cricket Council with officials of other cricket boards including Chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board Giles Clarke.

Top Australian players, including skipper Ricky Ponting, have reservations about playing the Champions Trophy here in September due to security concerns.

The Australian Cricketers Association has also said it was not happy with the ICC decision to award the Champions Trophy to Pakistan.

The defending champions had, earlier, postponed a Test tour in March due to security concerns in the wake of suicide bomb attacks in some cities here.

The cricket boards of Australia, New Zealand and England sent a joint security expert here last week to inspect arrangements for the Asia Cup and submit a report in two weeks time.

O'Connor maintained that sending a security expert did not mean that CA was looking for excuses to avoid coming to Pakistan.

"It is unfortunate we have not come to Pakistan in the last ten years. But I think every country we visit, we take extreme care with security...the well being of our players is the most important thing...and what we are doing in respect to Pakistan is nothing different from what we do elsewhere," O'Connor said.

He said the ICC had received a report on the security in Pakistan and they have decided to take further action on it without elaborating on what the course of action might be.

In contrast, ECB chief Clarke expressed confidence about Pakistan hosting the Champions Trophy successfully.

"There are no reservations in England the moment they are very excited for the tournament. I am in Pakistan right now so you can see I have no problems with the security," he said.

BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah also said that the event would go ahead as scheduled.

"No question was raised about the tournament during the ICC meeting and everybody agreed that it will be held in Pakistan . I think the tournament will go ahead without any doubt," Shah said.

Sri Lanka Cricket chief Arjuna Ranatunga said it was normal for boards to be concerned about security before a big event.

"It's a normal procedure and now not only western countries but all boards have concerns regarding players' safety.

"But now all the western countries have agreed to play so its a good sign following a very successful Asia Cup. Since PCB has told us that it's safe to play in Pakistan, we all have agreed to play," the former Lankan captain stated.