South Africa in Pakistan 2003-04
September 12, 2003

de Villiers warns against Pakistan tour

Fanie de Villiers spent almost as much energy sightseeing as he did bowling during his playing career, but this peripatetic paceman would rather avoid Pakistan right now.

de Villiers spoke to Wisden CricInfo on the eve of the departure for Pakistan of a United Cricket Board (UCB) delegation that will assess safety in the country ahead of South Africa's tour imminent but jeopardised tour there.

The South Africans have been advised by their government to steer clear of Karachi, Peshawar and Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, and have asked the Pakistan Cricket Board to amend the itinerary accordingly. But the Pakistanis are reluctant to do so, pointing out that the United Cricket Board accepted the current itinerary months ago.

"Pakistan is always an interesting tour," said de Villiers. "I wouldn't like to see politics keeping the boys away, because the people there love their cricket." But, he said, there were other factors to consider: "We went on tour to Sri Lanka in 1992 a few months after New Zealand abandoned their tour there because of a bomb blast," he pointed out. "But, if was still playing, I wouldn't go to Pakistan at the moment. If we're sending a security delegation there's already enough doubt about safety."

The fact that one of the protagonists in the growing debate concerning the tour should feel obliged to arbitrate in the matter was part of the problem, de Villiers said. "Why is it a South African delegation that's going, why not an International Cricket Council [ICC] delegation," he asked. "Is the ICC capable of running international cricket, or not?

"The ICC should make this decision. If they think it's safe, then South Africa should go." With the dilemma that was thrust on England's players about playing a World Cup in Zimbabwe still fresh, de Villiers was adamant who the fate of the tour should not be left up to.

"It should never be the players' decision," said de Villiers. "If I was a current South African player - after a World Cup that didn't go well and a long tour of England - I wouldn't be too keen."

Delegation member Ian Smith, the UCB's commercial director, denied he had the power to decide whether the tour went ahead. "We're not looking to cancel anything - I'm confident the tour will take place," he said. "But the safety of the players is paramount, and we're going there to make sure that what we've been told is correct and that we get what we need from the Pakistanis."

South Africa are due to arrive in Pakistan on September 22.