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March 11, 2008
Australia have confirmed that they will not go ahead with their scheduled tour of Pakistan later this month due to security concerns. The series has not officially been cancelled but rather postponed, however it is unlikely to be played this year.
"We are very sorry that the tour could not take place at this time," Creagh O'Connor, Cricket Australia's chairman, said. "This was a difficult decision based on independent review of the circumstances prevailing in Pakistan at the moment. We wish no loss to the Pakistan Cricket Board and look forward to undertaking this tour in the near future."
O'Connor and Nasim Ashraf, the chairman of the PCB, will meet in Dubai next weekend in an attempt to determine possible dates for the deferred tour.
"We are obviously very disappointed at this decision," Ashraf said. "I guess there is not much we could do and we sincerely hope that the tour of Australia to Pakistan can materialise at the earliest opportunity."
Australia's players were happy with the development and Matthew Hayden said "cricket has made the right decision". "We did not feel that we could be assured that travelling to Pakistan would be safe," he said in the Courier-Mail. "When you have got the Department of Foreign Affairs warning about terrorist attacks and serious security fears, we had a major problem."
Brett Lee told Fox Sports each player was asked if they were keen to go. "But it just came down to the board - I think Cricket Australia did have the final say," he said. "The hardest thing was not knowing - over the past couple of weeks we didn't really know what was going on - no-one was sure what tour was coming up."
James Sutherland, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, said Australia's busy programme meant it would not be easy to find a spot to reschedule the series. "There's a couple of windows in 2009 and 2010," Sutherland said. "There might be a little bit of massaging in order to make that happen but I guess that's what we're setting our sights on at the moment. The way our programme is at the moment, for Australian players, it's probably unlikely [we can play sooner]."
In recent weeks it had become increasingly unlikely that Australia would go ahead with the tour as some players were reportedly unwilling to go due to concerns about on-going violence in the country. However, Sutherland said neither the opinion of the players nor the latest bombings - at least 20 people were killed in suicide attacks in Lahore on Tuesday, less than two hours before the announcement - had influenced the decision.
"We drew some conclusions from our discussions with the government and other advisers last week that saw us in a position of really seeing that there wouldn't be any other alternative," he said. "We raised that matter with the Pakistan Cricket Board at the end of last week and left them to consider the implications of that over the weekend.
"We're very disappointed that this tour won't be going ahead. We've left no stone unturned in trying to ensure that the tour could proceed as planned but at the end of the day for us the safety and security of our employees must come first and we've been left with no alternative."
Cricket Australia was briefed by the Australian government last week, however Sutherland said the recommendations of independent advisers had also been taken into consideration. "The starting point is to look at the federal government's advice to Australian travellers to Pakistan and it's not favourable," he said. "The question for us is then to have a closer look and say, what are the implications for an Australian cricket team given those quite serious warnings that are in place?"
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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