Pakistan board confident of future commitments
Despite Australia's decision to postpone their tour to Pakistan, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) remains confident that future international commitments in the country will go ahead as scheduled.
To fill the gap in the international calendar following the postponement, the PCB has invited Bangladesh to take part in a five-match ODI Series and a Twenty20 International in April. The Bangladesh Cricket Board has agreed in principle to the tour and the schedule will be announced shortly.
Nasim Ashraf, the PCB chairman, said he was particularly disappointed Australia made the decision without sending a security team, as had been planned, to assess the situation. "Our consistent plea has been that at least the ground situation here should be assessed by Cricket Australia, but they said that they had made independent assessments and the decision was based on that," Ashraf told Cricinfo.
Hours before the decision was made, two suicide blasts rocked Lahore, killing at least 20 people. Once thought to be a safe venue - it was on the itinerary for the Australia series - this was the fourth attack in the city this year, highlighting how much the situation has deteriorated.
Ashraf, however, pointed to recent international tours as proof cricket and cricketers remain unaffected. "Our position is that these blasts have been happening for the last two years," he said. "That hasn't changed now and we have had four international tours to Pakistan recently, including South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia A. These are tragic incidents and paint a bad picture of the country, but they are targeted specifically at security institutions."
Pakistan is set to host the Asia Cup towards the end of June - the Indian and Sri Lankan boards have confirmed they will take part, though that was before Australia's decision. As for the ICC Champions Trophy in October and the Asia Cup, assignments which may be affected by Australia's pull-out and the generally unstable security environment in the country, Ashraf remained confident they would go ahead as scheduled.
"We are very confident our cricket will continue," he said. "The Asia Cup is very much on towards the end of June. Arjuna Ranatunga [the Sri Lanka Cricket chairman] and the Asian Cricket Council will be here soon to finalise plans for that. The Champions Trophy is on soon after that and the ICC will also try and ensure that all teams take part in that. India are due to come here at the end of the year as well."
The board is also working on plans to fill up its calendar over the coming months now that Australia has pulled out. With Bangladesh set to tour next month, the board has plans to host a tri-series in August. "A number of teams will want practice before the Champions Trophy," Ashraf said, "so we are looking to invite sides over in the window before it as well."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo