The ICC has cast doubt on the viability of Pakistan as a venue for international cricket by announcing it will conduct an independent security assessment of the country before appointing officials for Sri Lanka's tour next month.
Sri Lanka had agreed to tour after India called off their scheduled tour to the country on Thursday, following a directive from the government in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks. David Morgan, the ICC president, told the Indian news channel CNN-IBN that India's decision was "an acceptable non-compliance" in keeping with the organisation's rules.
"We will do an independent assessment of the situation in Pakistan to ensure the safety of the umpires and match referee," Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, said in Mohali during the second Test between India and England. "I am convinced the Sri Lankan board will also do everything to ascertain whether it is safe to play in Pakistan and also seek assurances from the Pakistan Cricket Board."
In a statement, the ICC said that safety issues for officials and spectators were as important as those for the players. "The issue is that safety and security is not simply a matter for players; it's also a matter for everyone else - broadcasters, journalists and match officials too, as well as spectators. From the ICC's perspective, what would be required is that the match officials are afforded the same level of security as any or everyone else involved in the series."
The statement also raised the issue of umpires being willing to tour. "Just like with players, officials have choices about whether or not they wish to attend a tour and are also likely to be guided by the views of their own governments. [However] the ICC has a significant number of officials and would certainly expect to be able to identify enough of them to stand in the tour."
The PCB has drawn up a temporary itinerary which includes three Tests and five one-dayers and is awaiting an approval from Sri Lanka Cricket before releasing it. Sri Lanka are expected to head to Pakistan after their tour of Bangladesh ends on January 14. Pakistan have been denied the chance to host several high-profile teams this year owing to security fears. Australia pulled out of their Test tour this March and the ICC Champions Trophy was postponed to September 2009 for the same reasons.
Asked about the difference between the security situation in India following last month's Mumbai attacks and that in Pakistan, Morgan said: "They are two different countries. I'm not a security expert. The feedback that I have is that the security position in the two countries is significantly different."
Lorgat, however, said a final decision on Pakistan's hosting rights of the Champions Trophy will be taken at the ICC's Executive Board meeting in January.
"We would like to see cricket on Pakistan soil," he said. "But again that depends on the safety and security that prevails in the area. India's tour of Pakistan could have provided us huge inputs for the Champions Trophy, but now that it has been cancelled, Sri Lanka's tour might provide us that input."