Ijaz Butt, the newly appointed chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, has hinted that Pakistan may have to play home games at neutral venues if the security situation doesn't improve. Pakistan have been starved of international cricket this year, since Australia's Test tour and the Champions Trophy were postponed due to growing security fears.
"The holding of the Champions Trophy in Pakistan depends on the security condition of the country and if the current indefinite situation prevails further we may consider the option to play on alternate venues," Butt said shortly after the Federal Sports Ministry confirmed his appointment. "Security is something which is not in our control. The government is dealing with that and I am confident that we will overcome this problem and bring international cricket back to Pakistan."
The idea of playing matches at neutral venues has evoked mixed reactions from former Test players. Abdul Qadir, the former legspinner, suggested that the PCB organise matches in Sharjah as it wasn't easy to guarantee security to foreign players, but former captains Ramiz Raja and Intikhab Alam disagreed. Raja said Pakistan will lose the home advantage while Alam said neutral venues will set a wrong precedent as even teams like India and Sri Lanka - who have toured Pakistan in the recent past - will opt not to tour Pakistan.
Butt said he will attend an ICC meeting next month and address the security issues. The West Indies women's team had earlier pulled out of the Pakistan leg of their Asian tour because of concerns over player safety and the men's team too opted out of a proposed tour next month.
Butt added that his other priorities as chairman include rectifying Pakistan cricket's tainted image following the various doping controversies and indiscipline issues.
"Discipline is paramount and I will push everyone hard to overcome this problem and will not allow anyone to tarnish Pakistan's cricket image," he said.
Mohammad Asif, the fast bowler, is scheduled to attend a hearing before the IPL drugs tribunal on October 11 after testing positive for the banned steroid nandrolone during the tournament.