The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has made it clear that the home series against Australia will not be shifted to a neutral venue if the tourists decide against visiting Pakistan due to safety concerns. The tour is scheduled for March-April 2008 and includes three Tests, five ODIs and a Twenty20.
"We are confident that the Australians will come and play here according to schedule," Shafqat Naghmi, PCB's chief operating officer, told The News. "Either the series will be played in Pakistan or cancelled but there will be no neutral venue."
Australia's last tour of Pakistan in 2002-03 was shifted to Colombo and Sharjah due to security issues. Naghmi said that such a move will not be repeated, adding that Pakistan will provide foolproof security to the Australians. Even with that assurance, the Australian board will send a security delegation for a brief visit prior to the tour. Only after that is a final decision likely to be made.
Following months of political turmoil in Pakistan, Darren Lehmann, the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) president, said recently that the tour will go ahead only if the security reports deem the country safe.
"Security is paramount," Lehmann said. "If there's any risk at all the tour might not go ahead, but I'm not saying it won't, it still could. If security say it's fine, we will be going. The players will be guided. [The ACA] are right behind the whole process that's in place. We go and pre-visit."
According to the ICC's Future Tour Programme (FTP), Pakistan are to pay a return visit to Australia in December 2008. "We believe that the Australians will not be at any risk in Pakistan," Naghmi said. "The Australian delegation will come here in January after the general elections and we are confident that they would agree to send their team for the series."
The itinerary of the series will be finalised following the security delegation's visit.