'Pakistan cricket at lowest point' - Sethi
The Pakistan Cricket Board's interim chairman Najam Sethi has said cricket in the country has reached its lowest point because of the recent string of defeats and the various controversies that have plagued it recently.
Pakistan lost all their three matches in the Champions Trophy last month, four of its cricketers have been banned on spot-fixing charges, teams have been refusing to tour Pakistan since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009, one of its international umpires - Nadeem Ghauri - has been banned on corruption charges and board president Zaka Ashraf has been suspended by the Islamabad High Court on the grounds of a "dubious" election.
"Our cricket has reached the lowest ground," Sethi said. "We are not winning matches. We are facing allegations of cheating with our players and an umpire being banned, and teams are refusing to tour, so we need to address all that."
Pakistan last hosted a series in March 2009, when a terrorist attack cut the Test series against Sri Lanka short. All Full Member nations have refused to tour the country since then on security grounds. However, Sethi said he is in talks with a few cricket boards and the ICC, and is hopeful of a positive result.
"Every country needs assurances on security, and until and unless we give them those they will not tour," he said. "I have talked to the England and West Indies boards regarding [them] sending unofficial teams, so that we can make a beginning. I have assured the ICC and other countries that a new government has taken over and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is determined to root out terrorism. Based on that they agreed to review our situation, provided things really improve.
"The maximum we can do is ask the ICC to review [the situation] after one year, but they demand assurances and demonstrable progress."
Four Test players - Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Danish Kaneria - are currently serving bans for their involvement in spot-fixing. Salman Butt apologised and confessed publicly recently, and a five-member ICC sub-committee has been formed to look into relaxing certain conditions of the five-year ban imposed on Amir. The committee was formed after the PCB had requested the ICC to consider a few concessions for the young, left-arm fast bowler. Sethi is hopeful that his ban will be relaxed.
"I have discussed Amir's ban with my colleagues in the PCB and we will soon hire a foreign lawyer in the UK to look at ways to get at least 20% relief for Amir," Sethi said. "I stressed that the international community needed to review his case and I am hopeful that Amir will get the relaxation."