England a likely venue for Australia-Pak series

CA wants to foster bilateral series with Pakistan in England and the Arabian Gulf in the wake of a deadly attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore.

updated: March 04, 2009 17:22 IST
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Cricket Australia wants to foster bilateral series with Pakistan in England and the Arabian Gulf in the wake of a deadly attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore.

Australia has not sent a Test team to Pakistan since 1998. The brazen ambush on Sri Lanka's team bus near the Lahore Test venue by a dozen heavily armed gunmen, which killed eight people and injured seven Sri Lankan cricketers, only heightened Australia's resolve against touring Pakistan.

Cricket Australia public affairs manager Peter Young on Wednesday said negotiations were underway with the Pakistan Cricket Board about playing a three-Test series in England in 2010, a move apparently welcomed by the British government.

The Australians had already announced in the wake of Tuesday's attacks that a five-match limited-overs series against Pakistan starting next month in the United Arab Emirates would likely go ahead with added security.

"We are talking to the Pakistan Cricket Board ... about playing Test cricket in 2010," Young said in a telephone interview. "We were due to play three Test in Pakistan, but we determined some time ago we weren't able to go there.

"It's a matter for the PCB to come up with a venue and one of the possibilities that has emerged is England."

British Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe suggested that the Pakistani national team could play its home games in England after the International Cricket Council conceded it was unlikely any international matches would be played in Pakistan for the foreseeable future. The Test series against Sri Lanka, canceled immediately before play on day three of the second Test, was the first in Pakistan in 14 months.

"I want to make sure that the sport in general, and cricket in Pakistan in particular, does not lose out. We could offer Pakistan a temporary home here," Sutcliffe said. "Most of the players play here in the county game already."

Young said it was all a "work in progress."

"There is a significant expatriate Pakistani community in England who could make up a natural audience," he said. "It's very early days. But it has been tabled. It would need the England and Wales Cricket Board to be comfortable. In principle they're aware of the discussion and in principle are comfortable with the notion."

Top-ranked Australia played a 2002 Test series against Pakistan at neutral venues and twice postponed a series that was due in 2008. It has also opted out of matches in Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka in the past.

"We have now for a number of years had a safety first policy. Wherever we go, we do a security risk assessment." Young said. "It doesn't matter if we're playing in Pakistan, anywhere on the subcontinent, West Indies or England. That's a sad fact of modern sport."

Young said Australia wanted Pakistan's scheduled tour Down Under to go ahead in the next southern summer, playing down comments by ex-Pakistani cricketers that invitations would be withdrawn because of a perceived security risk revolving around the Pakistan team.

"There's no risk of that from an Australian point of view," Young said. "We're hoping to welcome them here in this summer."

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat encouraged Pakistan to look abroad for venues and said a review of its position as co-host with India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for the 2011 World Cup would be undertaken.

"It's better Pakistan chooses to play cricket in neutral venues than not at all," Lorgat said. "We should encourage the game to continue."

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said he wanted the ODI series against Pakistan to go ahead in the UAE in April and May, but reserved the right to cancel if safety was at risk.

"We will go through our usual course of pre-tour visits ahead of that tour," Sutherland said. "At any stage if we feel it is not safe for out team to be in a certain place, we will take appropriate action and the appropriate steps just as we have in the past."

Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith on Wednesday offered the assistance of Australian police in investigating the Lahore shooting attacks.

Smith said he had spoken to Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, conveying his concern for the victims and willingness to help find the perpetrators.

"I indicated to him that ... the Australian Federal Police would be able to assist so far as investigatory and forensic matters," Smith said. "He was very grateful for that offer of assistance.

"What this does show is that nothing is safe from terrorist activity if terrorists want to pursue."

Australian umpires Steve Davis and Simon Taufel were traveling with match officials in a minivan immediately behind the Sri Lankan team bus when the attack occurred. The umpires' vehicle was riddled with bullets and its driver killed.

Davis provided a vivid account of the attack to Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

"We heard what sounded like fire crackers and popping off and we realized it was something a bit more serious so we all hit the floor of our van," Davis said. "We were pelted with bullets and the windows started smashing in. Our driver was shot dead. Our liaison officer was sitting next to the driver, was wounded in the shoulder and he got to the floor.

"Unfortunately our fourth umpire, the reserve, a Pakistan umpire, was hit while he was laying on the floor, through the lung and the spleen and he is in a critical condition having had surgery."

None of the five Australians traveling with the Sri Lankan team or in its convoy was injured.