The Champions Trophy has been set back after the ICC task force's visit to Pakistan failed to ease security concerns
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The ICC has postponed the Champions Trophy, which was due to begin in Pakistan in 19 days' time, to October 2009, after five of the eight participating nations confirmed during a teleconference on Sunday that they would not send their teams for the event due to security concerns.
South Africa had on Saturday pulled out of the tournament, which was originally scheduled to be held from Sept 12-28 in Karachi and Lahore, and the ICC was informed on Sunday that Australia, England, New Zealand and West Indies, too, would not be participating.
The ICC will now meet in September to finalise a window for the tournament in 2009 and, while Pakistan will be given "first preference" to host it, a decision on the venue may be taken only after a security assessment of the country is done around February, after the India tour.
Sources who attended the ICC's teleconference said there was the option of the tournament being relocated to Sri Lanka, the official alternate venue, but India and Pakistan remained adamant against a change.
India, the sources said, were not willing to sacrifice Pakistan. The Sri Lankans too didn't press their case, as they supported the Pakistan view that a venue change could not be made on security grounds. The meeting was held in an amicable atmosphere because most of the issues had been thrashed out among the members beforehand, rendering the final discussions a mere formality.
"There was unanimity in the decision to postpone the event until October next year," David Morgan, the ICC president, told Sky Sports. "India is very influential but so is Giles Clarke (ECB chief executive), Australia, New Zealand - they all bring their influence to bear.
"The vote was totally in favour of the postponement until October next year. And India were quite influential in persuading some other nations that that was the right course of action."
The ICC have appeased Pakistan, at least for the time being, in choosing not to cancel the competition entirely but postponing it until October next year. Morgan, though, was insistent that "appeasement was not part of the meeting at all".
"The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have been extremely reasonable about the whole subject, (it has been very clear) they have worked jolly hard to try to give comfort to the member boards, and the eight teams that are touring, that it would be safe and secure," Morgan said. "Unfortunately, five of the participating nations found it impossible to send their team to Pakistan because of safety concerns."
Though the postponement means there will be a rare 33 days without international cricket this year, the schedule for 2009 promises to be every bit as packed - besides, the next edition of the Champions Trophy is coming up in 2010. "Every cricketing year is a busy one," Morgan said. "We're more aware of it in the UK because of the Ashes, the World Twenty20 and the one-day series against Australia, but it is no busier a year than any other.
"There will certainly be more security assessments. We're going to meet around the table in 3 or 4 weeks in Dubai to discuss the mechanisms of the postponement. There are numerous things to be discussed and we're planning on meeting in the middle of September to discuss the consequences of the decision."
Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, added: "Every one of our members wishes to ensure the ICC Champions Trophy is a world-class event and the prospect of relocating it at short notice in order to make sure it was played this year would not allow that criterion to be fulfilled."
Shafqat Naghmi, the PCB's chief operating officer, said that postponing the tournament was the only option in light of boycott threats. "Cricket is not going to die here, it's just that we are going through a difficult phase," Naghmi said. "We would have lost the hosting rights had the Champions Trophy been relocated [to Sri Lanka].
"With four of the eight teams threatening to pull out, "it made little sense to organize a four-team competition," he said.
Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), said his board supported the ICC decision and had last week "explained their reservations and security concerns about staging the tournament in the aftermath of the resignation of the Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf last Monday."