Security concerns October 8, 2008

Qadir urges Pakistan to utilise neutral venues

Cricinfo staff

Despite the PCB's promises of the highest security cover, teams have been reluctant to tour Pakistan © AFP

Abdul Qadir, the former Pakistan legspinner, has suggested Pakistan play their international fixtures at neutral venues given the security situation in the country. Pakistan have hosted international teams at neutral venues in the past, but former captains Ramiz Raja and Intikhab Alam felt the PCB should not adopt the same approach this time.

The Pakistan board recently inked a US$9 million contract with Dubai Sports City, which will see the team play limited-overs games over three years at the under-construction Dubai Sports Stadium. Ehsan Mani, the former ICC president, had also spoken out against the move to play at neutral venues. "By offshore series Pakistan can perhaps get the TV rights money but there will be no crowds and sponsorships," Mani told the Voice of America. "If there was no cricket played in Pakistan, it will be loss to cricket, loss of Pakistan cricket in the longer run."

But Qadir said it wasn't easy to guarantee security to foreign players, especially after the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad where teams usually stay. "We can't provide accommodation to foreign teams in forts, and in the present scenario I believe Pakistan should arrange Test matches against other teams at places like Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, and we could generate revenues," Qadir told the Associated Press.

The ICC were forced to postpone September's Champions Trophy after five teams expressed their unwillingness to visit Pakistan and more recently the West Indies board called off its women's tour to the country and declined a invitation for the men's team to play two Tests. Australia had also postponed its tour of Pakistan earlier in the year and haven't visited the country since 1998, but Ramiz and Alam felt neutral venues weren't the right alternative.

"Passion will not be there if we opt to play at neutral venues," Ramiz said. "The conditions will be alien for both teams, especially for us as we will lose the home advantage." Alam had a different reason. "We should not play at neutral venues because then it will set a wrong precedent and even teams like Sri Lanka and India would prefer to play against us at neutral venues."

Pakistan hosted the Asia Cup successfully in June-July, with India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, UAE and Hong Kong taking part in the tournament besides the hosts. However, Pakistan haven't hosted a Test this year - Bangladesh and Zimbabwe played five-ODI series. India are scheduled to visit early next year.

"The main problem is how to break the myth of foreign teams to tour Pakistan and see whether it's right for other teams to pick and choose tours," Ramiz said. Australia decided to tour India despite recent bomb attacks in the country, and are slated to play the third Test in Delhi, where blasts have taken place in the past month.

Ramiz said the PCB should invite a World XI for the three limited-overs games in order to promote a "soft image" of Pakistan. "At the moment organising bilateral series with any country is a little bit difficult in Pakistan, but if the PCB invites a World XI and pay them well, it might help them to change the world opinion about Pakistan."