Late-night games and heat still worry ACA
Pakistan's decision to start three one-day internationals against Australia at 6pm has not appeased the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA), which had been concerned about the extreme day-time heat in the UAE in August-September. The late starts, confirmed by the PCB on Thursday, mean the one-day games in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi will not finish until 1.45am local time, which the ACA chief executive Paul Marsh said created a whole new set of safety issues.
Marsh said the ACA was now seeking feedback from Australia's one-day players about whether they were comfortable with the arrangements. The organisation is also assessing whether it will be safe to go ahead with the series, which has provided a scheduling headache for the PCB due to the lack of suitable venues to host a series of three ODIs and three Twenty20s at that time of year.
Despite being granted permission by the ICC to change the series to six Twenty20s, which would allow the matches to be played in relatively cooler evening conditions, Pakistan decided to push ahead with the 50-over portion of the tour, in part to satisfy a broadcast deal. Marsh said he had spoken to Cricket Australia about the ACA's concerns, which now included the playing hours as well as the heat.
"We've spoken about it several times and they are certainly aware of our views on this issue," Marsh told ESPNcricinfo. "We're concerned about the heat and we're not comfortable with the playing hours. There are issues there with the players playing sport at that time of night. How aware are players going to be?
"Are there any safety issues of playing sport at that time of the night? If you're standing there facing someone bowling at 150kph, are you going to be more tired at that time of day than you [otherwise] would be? Can they adjust their sleep patterns to play at that time of day? There are all of those things we have to look at. This tour has been put on for commercial reasons, not necessarily cricket reasons, and that's why there's ongoing frustration from our perspective.
"We can't stop Cricket Australia scheduling games at this time of the day. We have an MoU [memorandum of understanding] in place that has parameters around scheduling, but that is pretty much to do with number of games in total, breaks between games and those types of things. This type of issue we haven't encountered before."
International cricket has never been held in the UAE in June, July, August or September, the hottest months in the country, and the ACA's original concerns surrounded the possibility of the players being asked to play in 40-plus heat during the day. Marsh said that while the heat remained an issue even with the late start times, the tour would go ahead unless serious safety issues arose.
"I'm not particularly comfortable with it," he said. "I'm not sure there's much we can do. From a heat perspective, Cricket Australia has a duty to provide safe working conditions for its players, whether that relates to security or heat or dangerous pitches or any other issues. We're going through a process of trying to assess whether it's safe.
"In saying that, our players and cricketers around the world play in hot conditions. It's a summer game and there are plenty of times when players play in extreme heat. I don't want this to sound like we're trying to get this tour stopped, because we're not. But it's our job to assess the conditions professionally and do our due diligence and then report back to the playing group."
A Cricket Australia spokesman said that while the series had been scheduled at unusual times, it was important to support Pakistan to ensure the series went ahead. Cricket Australia also had concerns about playing one-day internationals during the extreme heat of the UAE day-time.
"We're very conscious of the fact Pakistan have had a lot of challenges organising this series," the CA spokesman said. "At various times they thought they had arrangements elsewhere. They wanted to play in Sri Lanka and that fell over. There was talk about Malaysia and that fell over. We sympathise and support what they want to do.
"We do support not playing in the heat of the day in the UAE at this time of year. The heat gets up into the 40s during the day and they've scheduled the games at a time of day when the temperatures are what we're used to and are reasonable. It is a one-off and unusual situation. It's an unusual time of day and an unusual circumstance but we sympathise with Pakistan and we're keen to do what we can to support them."
The one-day internationals, to be held from August 28 to September 3, will finish at 2.45am Pakistan time. The T20s, which are scheduled for September 5-10 in Abu Dhabi, will begin at 8pm local time, which is 9pm in Pakistan.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here