New Zealand tour of Pakistan doubtful

New Zealand Cricket is likely to call off its December tour to Pakistan after an attack on the Sri Lankan team's bus in Lahore left seven players injured.

updated: March 04, 2009 18:36 IST
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New Zealand indicated on Wednesday they would call off their tour of Pakistan after the deadly attack against the Sri Lankan team, fuelling doubts over the future of international cricket there.

The tour in November-December looks increasingly unlikely to go ahead amid huge question marks over security in volatile Pakistan, which is in danger of losing its co-host status for the 2011 cricket World Cup.

"We're not going, and I think that's pretty clear," New Zealand Cricket's chief executive Justin Vaughan told Radio New Zealand, adding: "I don't think any international team will be going to Pakistan in the foreseeable future.

"Now we've seen that cricket can be a target... I think it creates a whole new set of issues and raises the security issue to a whole new level."

However Vaughan later backtracked from saying the tour was off, issuing a statement stressing that no final decision had been made even if it appeared "very unlikely" to happen.

"We will discuss the security issue with the Pakistan Cricket Board at the next ICC (International Cricket Council) meeting, and we are likely to look at options such as the use of neutral venues," Vaughan said.

Eight people died and seven Sri Lankan players were among 19 wounded in the attack Tuesday in Lahore, when gunmen armed with grenades and rockets ambushed the team's bus as it headed to the third day's play of the second Test.

New Zealand officials are expected to meet their Pakistani counterparts in international meetings in April or June, where they are set to discuss moving the tour elsewhere.

"I think the options will probably revolve around playing them at a neutral venue," Vaughan said. "They have played previous games in the Gulf states, in Abu Dhabi."

The New Zealand cricket team cut short their 2002 tour to Pakistan after a suicide bomber blew up a bus outside their hotel in Karachi, killing at least 12 people.

ICC officials have cast doubt over Pakistan continuing as co-host of the 2011 World Cup along with Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.

"It's difficult to... see international cricket being played in Pakistan for the foreseeable future," ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said in London.

"We need to guard against a knee-jerk reaction. The World Cup is two years away," he told reporters, before warning: "It will be very challenging for us to be convinced that Pakistan is a safe venue."

ICC president David Morgan vowed international cricket would continue but said security surrounding top-class cricket globally would change forever.

"On many occasions we have been told that cricketers would not be targeted in Pakistan. This morning's events have proved that to be incorrect," he said. "But cricket must go on, it will go on."

Vaughan said it was too early to talk about moving the 2011 World Cup from the four South Asian countries, which all have security problems.

"You can't say cricket won't take place in Asia. It would kill the game because four of the eight countries we play serious cricket against are based out of there," he added.

"You can't just say it's a no-go zone -- I think we need to think pretty carefully.

"Player security is something we won't compromise on, but in terms of how and when events are scheduled in that region I guess we've got to think pretty long and hard."