Bangladesh news December 31, 2012

Bangladesh's proposed tour to Pakistan put on hold

Bangladesh will only tour Pakistan if the security situation in the country improves, BCB chief Nazmul Hassan has said. Hassan, who addressed a press conference in Dhaka on Monday, was noncommittal on the issue, not saying 'yes' or 'no' to the proposed tour, but made it clear in various ways that the January visit is ruled out for the moment.

"The ICC minutes have it that we have made an unconditional commitment to tour Pakistan. But there is concern among us about the country's security situation, it has deteriorated. We don't think it will be wise to visit Pakistan at this time," Hassan said. "We have sent them [the PCB] a letter three days ago, telling them of our stance. We will again contact them when their security situation improves. And we will go in the future, because we are committed to go there."

Two months ago, Hassan had said that the BCB - without mentioning who in particular - had committed to tour Pakistan in an ICC meeting. But concerns remained in Bangladesh, and it was learnt that the players wanted full-proof security guarantees from all parties before heading to play the series.

However, the PCB has begun its preparations for an impending tour. It has already placed a tender in one of Pakistan's top newspapers, Daily Jang, inviting sponsorship bids for a series title sponsor, two co-sponsors and in-stadia advertising rights for two international matches (one ODI and one T20). The PCB has also moved the domestic first-class Quaid-e-Azam matches, scheduled between January 7 and 22 away from the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore to accommodate the proposed matches against Bangladesh.

Hassan's comments came at an "exchange of views" programme on Monday, which the BCB had arranged to discuss some of the issues in Bangladesh cricket with the media. Hassan said the BCB was aware that putting the tour on hold could sour relations with the PCB. "It isn't an easy decision for us. If we say we want to go, many people in the country will be hurt. If we don't go, there will be repercussions," he said. "We know the consequences, they may not want to send their players to the Bangladesh Premier League and our Dhaka leagues. They will probably not want to help us or support us."

The PCB had used the upcoming BPL as a bargaining chip ahead of the T20 league's player auction on December 20: the Pakistan board had not handed out No-Objection Certificates to their players to play in the tournament, the understanding being they were waiting for an official announcement from the BCB, confirming that the proposed tour would go ahead.

Several Pakistan players were however bought at the auction. The prominent ones among them included Umar Gul, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Sami, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Imran Nazir and Wahab Riaz, whose participation in the tournament is now unclear.

The PCB and BCB have for some time now been discussing a short tour of Pakistan that would mark the return of top-flight international cricket to the country for the first time since the March 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore. A window had been created by the PCB to accommodate an ODI and T20 between January 10 and 15 ahead of the BPL, which starts from January 17. That window will now be missed.

The BCB have a 'written commitment' to tour Pakistan and, earlier this month, Hassan had said that they were in the second phase of talks with the PCB about going ahead with the tour, as the first phase that dealt with security issues had been completed satisfactory.

However, on December 22, Hassan said the tour was still unconfirmed, as the BCB was awaiting a security assessment to be conducted by the ICC.

Bangladesh was all set to tour Pakistan in April 2012 after a deal had been cut between the two boards, by which the PCB would back the BCB president Mustafa Kamal as the nominee for the ICC vice-presidency and Bangladesh would tour Pakistan in 2012. However, the tour was postponed after a Dhaka court order embargoed the series. At the time, the ICC had introduced a special dispensation by which bilateral series can take place even if the ruling body determined it unsafe to appoint its officials for the series. As per the dispensation, such series could be manned by "non-neutral match officials".

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent