South Africa, who visited Pakistan for a Test and ODI series in October, were provided a heavy security blanket © AFP
 

Australian players will be allowed to opt out of the tour to Pakistan if it goes ahead following CA's security team visit to the region in February. The tour, doubtful due to the political unrest after the imposition of emergency by President Musharraf, was dealt a severe blow after Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, was assassinated on Thursday.

Paul Marsh, Australian Cricketers' Association chief executive, said that a briefing will take place on the crisis in Pakistan while the players are in Sydney for the second Test against India. According to Marsh, each player was legally entitled to make an individual decision about touring Pakistan without breaching his contract.

"We want to reach a collective decision but the players obviously have that ultimate right," he said. "We would rather it's a one-in, all-in either way, but if a player comes to us and says that if the tour was to proceed they don't want to go, then we would support that and we believe the players are entitled to do that.

"The players have the right to make a decision. If Cricket Australia decided the tour should proceed, the players will obviously then be faced with the decision, do we go or do we individually or collectively decide not to go?"

However, Marsh said Cricket Australia and the ACA had a track record of making the right calls about security and it was premature to make a decision on Pakistan. Although Cricket Australia are prepared to wait for a decision, Andrew Symonds seem to be reluctant to be part of the team if the tour was to go ahead.

"I'm not interested in going into a situation that's dangerous, where people are getting killed and hurt," he told the Sunday Telegraph. "At the end of the day it's a game of cricket. I take my cricket very seriously and I love playing for Australia, but I'm not going to put myself in a situation where I can be harmed.

"You personally choose whether you want to play for Australia," he said. "If you're selected, you can choose to decline the offer of going on a tour or playing a game."

Pakistan's deputy high commissioner to Australia, Tanveer Akhtar, said Cricket Australia should do everything it could to ensure the tour happened. "We hope and we wish that they come and visit because people in Pakistan love cricket and they'll be more than happy to welcome the Cricket Australia," he told the Seven Network. "We wish and hope things settle down quickly and as soon as the elections happen and new government is formed things will be business as usual."

The tour is scheduled to include three Tests, five ODIs and a Twenty20 match. If the tour goes ahead three Tests are expected to be played between March 17 and April 6.