Neutral venues ruled out for 2011 World Cup

A general view of the Sheikh Zayed stadium (2) Abeed Janmohamed / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The ICC has ruled out the possibility of Pakistan's 2011 World Cup matches being held at a neutral venue, including UAE. The governing body agreed that those 14 matches will be held in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the other co-hosts, as previously decided.

The ICC board had decided in April that Pakistan would not host any of its World Cup matches due to the deteriorating security situation in the country, and the event's organising committee decided later that those games would be realloted to the other co-hosts. These decisions have now been reaffirmed at the ICC annual conference at Lord's in London after Pakistan launched a legal challenge against the ICC on the issue.

David Morgan, the ICC president, said that the IDI (ICC Development International) - its commercial wing - has asked the 2011 World Cup's central organising committee (COC) comprising the four host nations, namely India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to recommend a feasible schedule and locations for the 14 games.

"The IDI board reaffirmed its earlier decision that matches in the tournament will not be played in Pakistan," Morgan confirmed, "and asked the four host countries to come together to determine where the matches originally set to take place in Pakistan should now take place."

Asked if Pakistan agreed to the ICC decision, Morgan said he "believed" so. "In the discussions I've had with the chairman [Ijaz Butt] and chief executive of Pakistan Cricket Board I believe that there is an acceptance on their part that the board has taken a decision in its previous meeting such that Pakistan will not be a location for matches in 2011 World Cup."

Morgan also said that the PCB has accepted an offer from the ICC to set up a task team, which will be headed by Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, to protect the country's position in international cricket. "We are delighted the PCB has accepted the ICC's offer of assistance as we seek to ensure Pakistan is not isolated as a result of circumstances beyond the control of cricket administrators," Morgan said. "We look forward to working with the PCB over the coming months on the issue."

Last week, after its meetings with the subcontinental neighbours proved inconclusive, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) indicated that it would carry on with its legal proceeding against the ICC on the issue of hosting the World Cup. Denying that the ICC decision was linked to the legal proceedings, Morgan said he was still optimistic. "We have not given up hope of reaching a settlement but I couldn't go into any more details than that."

Another important plea of Pakistan, to be allowed to outsource its games to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, was ruled out by the IDI board, which is the final authority on the matter as per the host agreement for the event.

"There is no question of a fifth country," Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, who chaired the media briefing with Morgan, said. "The board has considered that and decided that 14 matches that were allocated to Pakistan should take place in the other three host countries - India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh."

Morgan also rejected suggestions that Pakistan could boycott the event, should the PCB be disappointed with the decision made today, coming as it does after Pakistan's remarkable victory in the recent ICC World Twenty20. "There has never been any suggestions that Pakistan will not participate in the tournament," Morgan said. "That would be most unfortunate, highly unlikely."

The COC is expected to report to the IDI in two weeks' time to provide recommendations about the schedule and the location of the 14 games that would be moved to India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. "Pakistan would be involved in the COC assuming they adopt certain venues within the other three nations. They would get involved with the logistical preparations at those venues," Lorgat said. Both Morgan and Lorgat reiterated that Pakistan would receive the hosting fee of US$750,000 for each of the 14 games they were supposed to host. Still, it remains to be seen if Pakistan will rest their case.

Cricinfo has learnt that the boards from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were adamantly against Pakistan's suggestion that matches be played in the UAE, because they felt it would dilute the concept of the event being held in the sub-continent. The PCB argued its case on the basis that during the 1999 World Cup, England held some of its matches in Ireland and Scotland; and in the 2003 edition, South Africa held some of its matches in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

The ICC will consider itself to be on a strong wicket, however, because the host agreement clearly states that the IDI board has the final discretionary powers to allot matches, so their decision will stand.