September 22, 2003

Pakistan appeal to ICC, and set South Africa a tour deadline

Wisden CricInfo Staff

Pakistan have sought the aid of the International Cricket Council to force South Africa to honour their commitment to tour their country. If South Africa won't, Pakistan have said they have no other option but to enforce their right to take the matter, and a $US7million claim for damages, to the ICC's disputes-resolution committee.

Lt-Gen. Tauqir Zia, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), made the written request today. South Africa cancelled the tour on Saturday, on the eve of their side leaving for the tour. What Pakistan have called an "isolated" bomb exploded in Karachi on Friday, about five miles (8km) away from the National Stadium where South Africa were due to play their opening tour game, a one-day warm-up match, on Wednesday. The first one-day international was also scheduled to be played there, on Friday.

Pakistan have given the South Africans a deadline - this evening - to make their final decision. Zia said the bomb incident, in which there were no casualties, occurred because of a feud between two factions, and was not a terrorist act.

Zia has written to the ICC president Ehsan Mani and warned that if the ICC did not intervene, Pakistan would be forced to refuse to honour its own commitments to those countries who decline to visit them.

"The ICC must keep in mind the loss Pakistan cricket will suffer due to this act of the United Cricket Board of South Africa. We have already suffered at the hands of the Indian government's reluctance to allow the Indian team to play with Pakistan. The loss is to the tune of $US30million. If other teams also do not visit Pakistan then the loss to Pakistan cricket will be unbearable.

"It is not only the loss because of the South African visit but also the reluctance of the subsequent teams. Pakistan cricket will lose around $US7m from the South African tour and $US3m from New Zealand's tour. And if India chooses not to send its team to Pakistan in February, the loss will be $US11m."

Zia also made the point that while the cancellation affected revenue, there were also costs to the promotion and development of cricket, the cost in terms of the public being deprived of their chance to watch sport, the loss to Pakistan television which would not be able to generate advertising on the back of the cricket, and also cost involved in maintaining huge stadia that were not being used.

"Such losses are unacceptable to Pakistan cricket," he said. "We have already written to the UCBSA suggesting postponement by a week, and excluding Karachi as a venue. We expect the UCBSA to cooperate with us as we have done with everyone including touring countries where the threat to the security of players was far more serious.

"We expect the ICC to intervene and instruct the UCBSA to take the tour as planned. We would hate to end up in a situation whereby we are forced not to honour our commitments to those countries who decline to visit Pakistan.

"Bangladesh played the fifth ODI of their series in Karachi without any security concerns," said Zia, who then added: "Furthermore, the ICC match referee Mike Procter, who is from South Africa, also does not support the decision of the UCBSA."

Zia said he had spoken twice with the South African high commissioner in Pakistan and that he also did not support the UCBSA decision. According to him, Pakistan was a safe place, particularly for South African nationals.

Zia also reminded the ICC president of the 1998 incident in which the PCB was under pressure from some Pakistan team members to cancel their tour of South Africa after the mugging incident in which two of their players were injured. "The crime rate in Johannesburg is far greater than anywhere else but teams visit South Africa regularly. On the contrary, Pakistan government has assured security to visiting teams of the level given to the VVIPs."

Zia said that the UCBSA had taken a unilateral decision without consulting the PCB, the ICC or their High Commission in Pakistan. "They had initially expressed reservations on playing at two venues, Karachi and Peshawar, but later agreed to go ahead with the tour after their security personnel visited Pakistan. These personnel were fully satisfied with the security aspects and on the basis of their assessment, UCBSA allowed the tour to proceed as scheduled."

In a separate letter, Zia enlisted the support of the Asian Cricket Council through its president Mohammad Asghar Ali, and requested a united front be put forward as resolved at the ACC special general meeting in Sharjah last year.

That resolution was: "...It was further decided that in case of failure by any country within or outside Asia for reasons not beyond the control of the cricket boards and force majeure, the four Test-playing countries of Asia would automatically refuse either to visit or host that particular country."

Zia asked Asghar Ali to consult with other members and request both the ICC or the UCBSA to ensure the tour goes ahead, and that the matter be given top priority.