January 2, 2002

West Indies decline to tour

West Indies have made up their mind not to tour Pakistan under the prevailing situation in the region but the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said it was waiting for the forthcoming Saarc conference in Kathmandu before announcing its decision.

According to sources, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Wes Hall has informed the PCB of its decision in a Dec 24 communication in which he has further stated that the West Indies had no objection in fulfilling its obligation ata neutral venue.

Nevertheless, chairman of the PCB Lt Gen Tauqir Zia told reporters that it was premature to say that the series in Pakistan had been cancelled. He added that the PCB would be monitoring Pakistan and Indian foreign ministers meeting in the Nepalese capital before deciding whether to host the series in Pakistan or shift it to a neutral territory.

"We would look for a neutral venue only if the foreign ministers meeting fails. If the meeting is constructive and situation eases out on the borders, we would press for the series to be played in Pakistan," Tauqir said.

The PCB supremo added that there had been communication and accepted that he had a telephonic conversation with his West Indian counterpart. But he denied that the West Indies have refused to tour Pakistan.

PCB director Brig Munawwar Rana said the communication has been received in which the West Indies have shown concern over Pakistan and India situation.

"We will give due consideration to their concern and will respond in due course of time.

"Pakistan and India situation is an international concern and countries all over the world are worried. But the situation is not bad and as the signs go, things will improve," he said. However, sources confirmed that Hall has written in clear terms that the decision has been taken after the players said they would feel insecure and unsafe if the tour went ahead.

"The WICB is concerned over security for their players in a country in the middle of the continued United States military action in Afghanistan, its neighbour to the west, and the more recent threat of war with adjoining India to the east," he says in his Dec 24 letter to the PCB.

He added: "My personal commitment to my players is to ensure we conduct the proper due diligence before proceeding on any tour to allow them to be free from stress and able to give unreservedly of their best," Hall says in his Dec 24 letter to the PCB chairman.

According to The Trinidad Express newspaper, Hall's last telephonic conversation with the PCB chariman was on Sunday in which the General put his board's contention that it was still safe to hold the series in Pakistan. "But I reiterated our position that we had genuine concerns about security, especially since the increased tensions on the border with India have compounded the unsettled situation in Afghanistan," Hall was quoted as saying in The Trinidad Express newspaper said.

The PCB has already released the itinerary of the 41-day tour scheduled between Jan 25 and March 6. Strangely, Peshawar has been allocated a Test. However, when the PCB released the tour programme, WICB claimed it had not approved it and the tour was not a certainty.

The situation in Pakistan is also dependent on Clive Lloyd's report who is due to arrive in city Wednesday on way to Islamabad where he will be coaching Youth World Cup-bound cricketers.

In the meantime, Cricketers Benefit Fund Series (CBFS) vicechairman Abdur Rehman Bukhatir has offered the PCB to shift the series in the desert city of Sharjah but has ruled out Moroccan city of Tangiers because of poor weather.