Ireland talks over Pakistan tour on hold
Pakistan's hopes of reviving international cricket at home were dealt a big blow after Ireland decided to hold back on its ongoing discussion with the PCB regarding a proposed tour to Pakistan later this year, following the terrorist attacks on Karachi airport this week.
Ireland had been willing to tour Pakistan as early as September on the condition of security assurances, but the terrorist attacks in and around Karachi airport which has killed more than 30 people, have now ruled out the proposition. "Cricket Ireland and the PCB were in advanced discussions to play three ODIs in Pakistan in September," Barry Chambers, Cricket Ireland's spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo.
"These discussions had taken place between the respective chairmen and CEOs over the past three weeks, and had involved contact with ICC, governments, and security advisors. There had been a preliminary agreement to play three games subject to a security review by credible experts, and agreement from the players and staff, which would have been the next stage of the process. With the recent tragic events at Karachi Airport, the series will now be deferred to a later date."
Pakistan has not hosted an international match since the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009. However, ESPNcricinfo understands that upon the persuasion of ECB chairman Giles Clarke, Ireland became the first major cricket-playing nation to show their support to Pakistan, and were even willing to play in the country.
"Cricket Ireland is obviously very keen to secure as many fixtures as possible against Full Members, and these proposed games would have been very beneficial ahead of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup," Chambers said.
Ireland had initially been invited to tour Pakistan early last year following Bangladesh's withdrawal from a scheduled series in January. The PCB tried hard to negotiate a home series with the BCB, but Bangladesh withdrew twice after seemingly having committed to the tour.
For the last three months, the PCB has been using diplomatic channels in a bid to win back lost confidence. There had been frequent visits by the European Union delegation at the PCB headquarters. Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, the head of the European Union delegation to Pakistan, had called on the PCB Chairman Najam Sethi in March, and this was followed by another delegation visit last month.
"The PCB is trying to bring back international cricket to Pakistan," Sethi had said. "Every diplomatic effort is being made for the revival of bilateral and other international cricket in this country."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson