Series could be held in lead-up to 2009 Ashes March 18, 2008

Australia and Pakistan to discuss tour dates

Cricinfo staff

A Pakistan-Australia series in the lead-up to next year's Ashes is looming as a possibility as the two countries juggle their calendars in an attempt to reschedule the cancelled three-Test tour. Creagh O'Connor, Cricket Australia's chairman, has invited his PCB counterpart Nasim Ashraf to Australia to discuss possible dates.

April or May of 2009 might give Australia a chance of visiting Pakistan, but it would be straight after a tour of South Africa and right before their Ashes visit to England. However, Shafqat Naghmi, the PCB's chief operating officer, said it was potentially the most suitable time.

"We believe that would the best time for Australia to honour its commitment to tour," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "We have been saying again and again we don't want to play in a neutral venue and our position has not changed. We hope that with a new democratic set-up in the country things will improve, the bombings cannot go on forever."

Australia were to visit Pakistan this month but fears over safety and security of the players led to a decision to postpone the tour. The last year was a turbulent one for Pakistan, with militant violence affecting several areas of the country. In November, a state of emergency was imposed and in December former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated while campaigning for elections.

This year has already seen several suicide attacks in Lahore and the NWFP. Though South Africa stayed in the country to complete their tour last October and Zimbabwe visited in January, Australia's tour was put in doubt after players voiced their concerns. Australia haven't toured Pakistan since 1998.

"Dr Ashraf and I have taken the opportunity to catch up during the current ICC board meeting in Dubai and we have had a preliminary look at dates which might be suitable to reschedule the matches," O'Connor said. "I have assured the PCB that Australia is committed to finding new dates, and we are committed to the ICC principle that cricket will only develop as a genuine global sport if all nations play each other away and at home on a regular basis.

"It is clear from our initial discussion here in Dubai that we need to sit down and go through the technical issues on finding new dates with a fine tooth comb. To that end, I have suggested we meet in Melbourne as soon as possible and we will organise dates once the current ICC meetings are finalised."