Players' associations on Pakistan's cricketing future

'Pakistan have to bide their time'

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How long will Pakistan remain on the outside as a host nation? And what measures need to be taken before teams tour there again? Alex Brown and Ajay Shankar spoke to four leading player associations to gauge their opinions.

Paul Marsh, chief executive, Australian Cricketers' Association


Paul Marsh, the chief executive officer of the Australian Cricketers' Association, Sydney, March 13, 2008
Paul Marsh: "The difficulty here is that until cricket returns to Pakistan and the implementation of agreed security plans is tested, how can any board or player association confidently recommend to its players to tour?" © Getty Images
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Teams: Pakistan

There are two major issues that would need to be overcome before the ACA could recommend that its players tour Pakistan again.

Firstly, the general threat levels are unacceptably high at present. As such the country would have to stabilise significantly and who knows how long this could take. Unfortunately this is largely uncontrollable, so those involved in Pakistan cricket have to bide their time and hope for improvement.

Secondly, based on past experience we have limited confidence in the ability of the security forces to deliver on agreed security plans. This is an area that we believe can and must be addressed.

The difficulty here is that until cricket returns to Pakistan and a board agrees to tour, and therefore test the implementation of agreed security plans, how can any board or player association confidently recommend to its players to tour? What's most important right now is for cricket as a whole to address every aspect of security in every country. We must be receiving the best information on all potential countries and venues, we must develop the best possible plans and implement these plans exactly as laid out and then audit and review them constantly. There is no room for error in the area of security.

Graeme Labrooy, secretary, Sri Lanka Cricketers' Association (SLCA)

One way forward for Pakistan cricket is to revise their strategy in the short-term and look for a neutral venue like Dubai, or even Sri Lanka. For instance, who would have thought that the IPL will be held in South Africa this year? I just hope Pakistan's cricketers won't lose heart and will grab whatever chances they get to keep on playing, be it even in the English or Australian leagues. The Pakistan Cricket Board, meanwhile, has to play a crucial role in constantly communicating with and updating other boards on the situation there.

It's hard to say when international cricket will restart in Pakistan, because there's lots to be done. But I do believe that it will return. To start with, there could be an security review in Pakistan in about six to seven months, with the ICC stepping in, and we could take it from there. Who knows, the situation would have improved by then. But the key is for the board to keep its communication channels open.

From a Sri Lankan point of view, the players have gotten over the Lahore attack though the memories will remain for ever. And I am happy that some of them are moving forward and have started playing again in the IPL, if not for the country.

Tony Irish, chief executive, South African Cricketers' Association

One hopes that cricket will again be played in Pakistan. It is obviously a country with a great passion for the game. But in the forseeable future - the short- to medium-term - it is difficult to see teams touring there. The general approach is that we rely on our security consultants to inform us of the internal and external risks of a nation ahead of a tour. I think we would need to see a substantial lowering of that risk before any team would consider returning.

When we were dealing with the issue of playing in Pakistan ahead of the Champions Trophy, the big concerns being relayed to us was of the number of incidents and attacks in the cities that were reprisals for what was going on in the North West Frontier Province. Since then, there have been more attacks, and cricket was specifically targetted, so the situation has deteriorated even in that timeframe.

Heath Mills, executive manager, New Zealand Cricket Players Association

You hear some people saying we shouldn't be playing in Pakistan for four or five years, but I don't abide by that theory. There shouldn't be any time limits. I think playing there in the next little while will be difficult, and it's no secret that our series that was to be played in Pakistan might now be played (in New Zealand). But perhaps by the end of this year I think each series should be judged on a case-by-case basis. We should speak to our security experts, and if they give the green light in 12, 18 or 24 months, then we should go.

Ajay Shankar and Alex Brown are deputy editors of Cricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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