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August 11, 2008
"Pakistan has been given all clear to hold the Champions Trophy, the first-ever in this country," Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive, told reporters in Rawalpindi. "There is a strong likelihood that Karachi and Lahore will hold the matches, thus excluding Rawalpindi as one of the three venues." Lorgat is one of six officials of an ICC task force currently in Pakistan assessing the venues.
Lorgat said that the main reason for the exclusion of Rawalpindi was that it did not stage any games during the Asia Cup and so it was not possible to assess the effectiveness of security at the venue. "There was no way we could formulate an opinion on Rawalpindi," he said. Another reason could be that renovation work on the stadium will not be finished in time for the start.
The last one-dayer Rawalpindi hosted was in December 2006. The city has seen several terrorist attacks in the past year, including the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December.
Lorgat added the delegation's meeting with the ministry of the interior was very informative. "The attitude and willingness of the Pakistan government officials to implement security measures was very positive."
But Lorgat admitted it would be a great challenge to convince the players who are reluctant to tour Pakistan. "I think personally from what I have seen and what I have heard and beginning to witness some of the actual security implementation measures, I am quite impressed with the level of security in place. It is another matter to satisfy and improve the confidence of key players."
Lorgat said the task force will visit Australia, New Zealand and England in an attempt to convince the players to tour Pakistan. "We have got a series of visits that follows from completing the visit to Pakistan. We go to Australia and New Zealand and speak to the boards as well as the Players' Association and to the players themselves and then visit to England and let's see what comes out.
"It (to convince) is a big challenge, we will personally tour and its upon us to convey the message and to raise the confidence based on what we have seen and experienced that the security arrangements in place should be sufficient to have the event safe and secure."
A PCB spokesman later told Cricinfo that the tournament will now begin on September 12 instead of a day before as had been planned. "The opening ceremony and ICC awards are on September 10 and it will probably go on till late that evening so we thought it best to have a day in between before the opening match," Mansoor Suhail said. Lorgat admitted to reporters that they had received advice from security consultants that the 12th might be a better day to start.
Tim May, the chief executive of the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations, was cautious in his assessment. "It will take some time and more information to make up my mind. The task force is here to address the concerns of the players adequately," May said. "There were some concerns raised by the players prior to this tour and it is up to the task force to not only convince me but also the players."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the 4th ODI between England and India at Edgbaston