The Abu Dhabi Cricket Council has offered to step in as host for Pakistan's home series against India scheduled early next year, if concerns over security in Pakistan persisted. Dilawar Mani, the council's chief executive, said the council was ready to stage the matches if the situation arose.
His statement comes in the wake of the Indian Government recently calling off its five-match junior hockey series away to Pakistan at the eleventh hour citing security concerns. The 2008 Champions Trophy originally scheduled to be held in Pakistan this September, was also deferred to September-October 2009 after a number of participating teams refused to visit the country due to similar reasons.
"If Pakistan is not able to host the Indians for some reasons at home we would be willing to stage the matches free of cost," Mani told Pakistan news channel Geo News.
PCB CEO Saleem Altaf confirmed the offer from Abu Dhabi but was more in favour of holding the series at home. Pakistan's chances of hosting the postponed Champions Trophy next year will be in jeopardy if India refuse to tour in January.
"The ICC has kept the Indian tour to Pakistan as a benchmark for deciding on the relocation of the Champions Trophy because of the security situation in the country," Altaf said. A neutral venue, Altaf said, will be the worst-case scenario. "When there is no other option available, we will switch over a home series to a neutral venue. To earn sufficient income through an alternative venue the PCB will discuss venues like Abu Dhabi, England or Sharjah. The venue which gives more money to the PCB will be selected."
However Altaf said security arrangements for India's tour were already underway in Pakistan. "The publishing of [match] tickets is also set to start. Today, the PCB also received an email from the ICC President David Morgan asking to make arrangements for his visa as he is willing to watch the first [Pakistan-India] Test.
"Our first priority remains to convince India and other foreign teams to fulfil their obligation of touring Pakistan and supporting Pakistan cricket. The Pakistan board as a policy wants teams to tour Pakistan but at same time needs to generate funds and can't afford to become an isolated cricket nation," he said
India are scheduled to play three Tests, five ODIs and a Twenty20 international on the tour beginning January 6. However, Mani did not specify whether the council will be willing to host both the Tests and one-dayers.
Mani also mentioned Dubai and Sharjah, apart from Abu Dhabi, as alternative venues for the series as they have grounds that match up to international standards. "The Dubai Sports City ground is also ready to be launched soon, so we have three venues right now," he said.
While the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi is currently playing host to the three-match ODI series between Pakistan and West Indies, the last match at the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium was a one-dayer between Pakistan and Zimbabwe back in April 2003.