Pakistan board announces revised itinerary
South Africa's delayed tour of Pakistan will now start with a warm-up one-day match at Lahore on October 1, while the first ODI will be played at the same venue two days later. The itinerary was forced to be revised following South Africa's concerns over security after a bomb blast in Karachi. The new schedule comprises five ODIs but just two Tests, one lesser than was originally intended. Importantly, the South Africans will go into the Tests without a single three-day warm-up game.
Earlier, the tour was salvaged after the PCB managed a last-minute deal with the South African board. "We made a decision on Saturday, based on information from our security consultants who had also been in contact with intelligence agencies," said Gerald Majola, the chief executive of the UCB. "That information was that the situation in Pakistan, particularly following a bomb blast in Karachi on Friday evening, meant that sending our team to Karachi on Sunday as planned would have constituted an unacceptable risk."
"The Board has at all times been committed to making every effort to ensure the tour could go ahead, with the safety and security of the national squad as our primary concern," said Majola. "The tour is important to both Pakistan and to South African cricket and we are sympathetic with the disappointment expressed in Pakistan when the team's departure for Karachi on Sunday had to be called off. We appreciate the PCB's compromise on an abbreviated tour, and that compromise is indicative of the continuing good relationships between our two boards."
In a radio interview on SABC, the national state broadcaster, Majola also informed that the South African team would be given VVIP security cover, which is normally given only to visiting statesmen. "We have decided to go ahead with a shortened tour because we now have a security plan in place that has been approved by Pakistan, South Africa and our own police service," he said. "The VVIP security will be monitored on a regular basis by our own security people who will be travelling with the team during the tour."
"We feel it is a welcome sign for cricket in Pakistan because we have gone through very hard times in the last four days," said Rameez Raja, the chief executive of the Pakistan board. "[There were] misconceptions about Friday's blast," he said. "After talking to our security officials, [South Africa] got the clear picture that the blast was not linked to terrorism."
Ehsan Mani, the president of the ICC, expressed his satisfaction at the outcome of the discussions. "Over the past two days, this has allowed all parties to get a considered, fact-based and accurate understanding of the security and safety concerns and of the way in which these are being managed. I am very pleased that through this process the PCB and the UCB have reached this in principle agreement."
However, Mani criticised the haste with which the tour had earlier been called off. "I am concerned that there appeared to be a lack of consultation within the international cricket community before the initial decision not to tour was taken," he said. "This meant that both the ICC and the PCB were not given the opportunity to provide relevant information to the UCB as it considered its position.
"One solution may be to introduce a cricket-wide protocol for this type of situation, where any country that is facing the situation the UCB has had to deal with is obliged to consult with both the ICC and the host country before reaching a decision. In that way every country would retain its right to determine where and when its team plays but it would also ensure that all parties affected by its decisions would be able to have their views considered and discussed as a decision is being made."
Mani promised that he would raise the issue at the next meeting of the ICC's executive board, which is scheduled for the Caribbean at the end of October.