ICC backs Pakistan over Trophy
A delegation from the International Cricket Council has backed Pakistan to successfully host the upcoming Champions Trophy.
Pakistan is scheduled to host the eight-team tournament from September 11, but there has been speculation the ICC may opt to move the competition due to the security concerns of some competing nations.
Australia, who pulled out of a tour of Pakistan earlier this year, are uncertain if they will defend their title due to continuing political tension in the country while New Zealand players, who are due to tour in August, have also voiced security fears.
The ICC’s executive committee are due to meet in Dubai later this month to discuss the matter with a final decision scheduled to be taken on June 29.
Sri Lanka has been put on standby to host the tournament. However, Ray Mali, who heads a 10-member ICC delegation currently on tour of the venues in Pakistan, has declared Pakistan capable of hosting the tournament.
“Pakistan has a safe and secure atmosphere to host international cricket,” Mali said after visiting the Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi.
“At the moment, we see no reason for teams not to play here. The Asia Cup is to be held here later this month and the successful conduct of the tournament will go a long way in quelling security fears.”
Mali held discussions with Pakistan Cricket Board officials on Tuesday and following that meeting an ICC team, which had reviewed security measures last week, left satisfied with the arrangements.
“The government of Pakistan has taken comprehensive measures to ensure foolproof security,” ICC director of event management, Ahmed Farooq, said in a statement.
“They have constituted high-powered committees to oversee the arrangements,"
The PCB have also met with police and government officials to discuss security arrangements for the tournament.
However, whether it will be enough to satisfy concerned players remains to be seen.
Tim May, chief executive of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, does not believe anything has changed in the three months since Australia postponed their tour of Pakistan.
“FICA is very concerned about the inherent risks of holding such an event in Pakistan in such a landscape of unrest and volatility and opposition to western countries,” May said.
“FICA is not alone in its concern regarding holding this event in Pakistan, compounded by the timing of the event in terms of the religious celebration of Ramadan and the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in New York.”
May said FICA would conduct their own review of the security arrangements and expect that process to be completed in a couple of weeks.
Eight teams, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England and the West Indies, will participate in the Champions Trophy.
This is the first major competition in Pakistan since a four-nation tournament in 1997 and the World Cup in 1996.
International Cricket Council chief executive Dave Richardson has warned countries pulling out of the Champions Trophy in Pakistan citing security concerns will face sanctions.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of the competition’s formal launch, Richardson said concerns about security were premature at the moment.
“While it is unfortunate that Australia didn’t tour (Pakistan) this year, I think that their security concerns for the Champions Trophy are premature,” he said.
Australia postponed their series in Pakistan in March this year because of fears for safety following the death of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the subsequent bombs.
New Zealand, who are scheduled to tour their in August, have also voiced concerns.
“We understand that security of the players and the media is the responsibility of the ICC and we will take no chances on that,” said Richardson.
“Teams which pull out despite ICC assurances will face penalties from the ICC.
“We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis. We are also in regular touch with officials from the Pakistan Cricket Board.
“We have a proper mechanism in place for this. We will keep the boards updated all the time.”
Richardson confirmed the ICC would take a final decision on June 29 at the executive meeting in Dubai.
But with ICC president Ray Mali endorsing security measures, the ratification looks a formality.