Bangladesh tour hit by logistical issues
The proposed Bangladesh tour of Pakistan, while agreed to in principle by the two countries' boards, is being threatened by logistical problems stemming from a lack of coordination at the political level. The PCB has delayed sending its security plan to the ICC because issues between the federal government and the state government of Punjab. Zaka Ashraf, the PCB chairman, urged the Pakistan government to play its role in moving quickly for the tour to fall into place, "for the sake of national interest."
Pakistan and Bangladesh, after reaching a consensus on the short tour, had informed the ICC earlier this week that they will play one ODI and one Twenty20 International at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. The matches are scheduled for April 29 and 30.
Ashraf returned to Pakistan on Tuesday night after attending the ICC board meeting in Dubai, calling for an immediate press conference to announce the Bangladesh visit. He did not however elaborate on any substantial plan ahead for Pakistan to host a foreign team for the first time in three years. Every question about the uncertainty surrounding the Bangladesh tour was responded to with a confident reply that all matters would be sorted out in time.
Meanwhile, at a press conference at the National Cricket Academy, the Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, welcomed the Bangladesh tour but was himself not certain of the security arrangements in place. "Bangladesh are our brothers and I welcome them to come and play here in Pakistan," Sharif told reporters in Lahore. "But the federal [government] is not coordinating with us."
The PCB, whose headquarters are housed in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, wrote a letter to the chief secretary of the Punjab Government on April 16 regarding security arrangements and plans and was still awaiting a reply from the provincial government. "We had dispatched them the letter for the plan (on April 16) that they are yet to respond to, but we will send the plan to the ICC shortly," Ashraf said. "The ICC actually was asking us to hand them the plan during the [board] meeting but we didn't carry it. It's our mistake that it is delayed for some reason but it will be sorted out soon."
Ashraf said that ICC has already promised to send their officials and the security plan that was sought by the ICC was merely a formality. "ICC won't be sending any of its delegation to assess security. They sought the security plan which we will dispatch to them shortly but that isn't a big issue for ICC."
ESPNcricinfo understands, though, that the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, after receiving the plan from the PCB, may consider outsourcing a company for an independent security assessment of the measures in place for the short tour by Bangladesh.
The series broadcasters, Ten Sports, also had their qualms. "They earlier showed reservation about the series being very short," Ashraf said, "but we told them this is what we have planned and that they have to cover it."
The prospect of an end to Pakistan's three-year drought of international cricket, Ashraf said, counted as a big victory. "Cricket is a passion in Pakistan and convincing Bangladesh to tour is a victory for all of us," he said. "The tour will not only benefit the PCB. The whole economy of the country is linked, so it's about the country not about the federal and Punjab government. I think all should play their role for the one national interest."
The three-day tour, Ashraf said, "will break the ice" and he was also confident of the resumption of Indo-Pak cricket. "The breakthrough achieved during President Asif Ali Zardari's tour to India will also help in the revival of Indo-Pak cricket."
Ashraf said the situation had changed considerably since 2009. "I thank the ICC Board for the way they appreciated the revival of cricket and approved of it. The situation is not like it was in 2009. Since cricket was suspended in Pakistan our grounds were left deserted but things have improved and I hope more teams will come after the Bangladesh team's tour."
Edited by Siddarth Ravindran
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent