Australia's schedule raises fresh problem for 2009 Champions Trophy
While Pakistanis simmer following the ICC's decision to postpone the Champions Trophy, Australia, one of the five nations who forced the switch, are already providing an obstacle for the 2009 event. While there are only two engagements listed for October 2009 on the ICC's future tours programme, one is the major clash between Australia and India and it will need to be altered for the global tournament to occur.
The one-day contest is currently scheduled for seven matches, which will take up most of the month, and Australia will have to squeeze any extra duties in between the end of their four-month Ashes campaign and the start of the home season against Pakistan in November. Australia's final match in England is a one-day fixture on September 20 and there are some in the set-up who are already wondering how to cram it in.
"Every team needs to fit the schedule," Michael Clarke, Australia's stand-in captain, said. However, Clarke was relieved that a decision had been made by the ICC to postpone the contest. "It's a great result for all the players to find out whether we're going or not going," he said. "All the guys are happy now."
The ICC had known Cricket Australia's strong position for weeks after both Creagh O'Connor, the chairman, and James Sutherland, its chief executive, told David Richardson, who was part of the ICC's task force, that Australia would not be touring Pakistan in the current climate. They feel western nations who have been part of the United States' "coalition of the willing" are at greater risk of being targeted in Pakistan and point to the Australian government's travel advice. England, New Zealand, South Africa and West Indies also planned not to attend the Champions Trophy.
"It's a good decision for cricket and we are pleased it was unanimous," a Cricket Australia spokesman said. "We look forward to dealing with our international colleagues over the details of when the tournament will be postponed to." The other series set down for October 2009 is between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, who have not qualified for the eight-team event.
Justin Vaughan, the New Zealand Cricket chief executive, said the decision was correct because the "security situation in Pakistan has deteriorated". "By postponing the tournament until October next year there is time for the security situation in Pakistan to improve or for a suitable alternative venue to be chosen," he said. "We appreciate the difficulties that this decision will cause the Pakistan Cricket Board and hope that the Champions Trophy can be held there in 2009."
Australia were due to be play Test and one-day series in Pakistan last March and April, but those engagements were postponed to 2009 and 2010, leaving the issue to rise at regular intervals over the next two years. Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998, but Clarke remained hopeful he would visit the country before the end of his career.
"Hopefully I'll be playing for a few years to come, so hopefully I'll get the opportunity to play in Pakistan," he said after telling of his relief that the decision had been taken away from the players. "Come next year, whenever they put it back on, we're looking forward to regaining that trophy, but right now, all the guys are rapt that the ICC has made a decision."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo