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Pakistan cricket future in doubt

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Pakistan should play at neutral venues - ICC chief

The future of international cricket in Pakistan is in doubt following Tuesday's attack in Lahore.

Seven Sri Lanka players were injured in Lahore on their team bus, while six policemen escorting it were killed.

Pakistan has been starved of cricket as most teams have refused to travel there because of security fears.

"How can we force them to play in Pakistan if the security situation doesn't improve," said Pakistan Cricket Board chief Ijaz Butt.

Pakistan's Test series with Sri Lanka, which was the first to be played in Pakistan since October 2007, was called off after the tragic incident in Lahore.

New Zealand are now considering whether to cancel December's planned tour of Pakistan.

International Cricket Council chief executive Haroon Lorgat added: "Perhaps for some time Pakistan should consider playing at neutral venues. Rather play some cricket than none."

ICC chairman David Morgan said the world's sporting landscape had been altered by the attacks.

"It has changed the landscape full stop - not just in the Indian sub-continent," he said.

"I do not think cricket is that different from other sports.

"I am sure other sporting administrations will be very concerned."

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Australia withdrew from a scheduled tour to Pakistan in March last year after security concerns amid the unrest which followed the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The ICC also postponed the planned Champions Trophy as a result of problems and India's proposed tour was cancelled because of strained relations between the two nations.

Butt said he hoped to convince teams to tour Pakistan again in the future.

"Security is the sole responsibility of the government," he said. "We can only assure teams the same security which was provided for the Sri Lankans in the first Test in Karachi.

"That Test concluded without incident. But we cannot blame teams if they do not travel to Pakistan."

Lorgat said that he did not think that "any team would be ready to play cricket in Pakistan".

He added: "It's very unfortunate for the people in Pakistan who love the game so much and have been very desperate to see international cricket but I'm afraid that situation is very desperate now.

Most tragic incident in Pakistan sports history - Khan

"If this is the situation it's going to be very difficult to see them being part of hosting the World Cup."

The country is nominally one of the co-hosts of the 2011 event, along with India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

But although Lorgat believes staging matches there is not viable in the near future, Morgan says no decision has yet been taken regarding the World Cup.

"I believe that there is currently great reluctance - and rightly so - for players to return at this time," he said.

"But the future situation needs not be perpetuated as it is today.

"We must not believe that Pakistan is going to be unsafe forever and ever, and we must hope that it won't be unsafe for too long.

"Teams should not be expected to go there in the immediate future but things can change and change quickly.

"The World Cup is due to be shared between four countries.

"That is the current plan and the board will have to think carefully about the extent to which Pakistan will be used in that event.

"We need to be careful of a knee-jerk reaction. The World Cup is two years away."

In light of the attacks, questions have been raised regarding the security arrangements afforded to the Sri Lanka team, with former Pakistan captain Imran Khan particularly scathing.

He said: "I think this was one of the worst security failures in Pakistan.

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"The Pakistani government guaranteed the Sri Lankan team that they would provide them with security.

"To see the type of security provided to the Sri Lankan team was completely shameful.

"Most ministers in Pakistan have better security than that provided to the Sri Lankan team."

The chief executive of the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations' (FICA) Tim May said that he met with ICC officials last week to discuss player concerns over security as a result of a recent survey.

"Unfortunately the tragedy only heightens those concerns," he said in a statement.

"At this time it's not appropriate to go into the detail of either the survey or the meeting, but there was a general acceptance that cricket needs to construct firm processes involving both players and administrators to address any effects on cricket that an escalation of terrorism may have in cricket playing countries."

May called for the creation of a security summit involving industry experts, other sports and player representatives to look at ways of safeguarding players.

Despite criticism, Morgan said the ICC would not be intervening to oversee Test match security arrangements - the responsibility for which currently lies with the two nations involved.

He said: "The ICC only becomes directly involved in safety and security if there is a disagreement between the host and visitor.

"There was no disagreement and we weren’t involved in assessing security."



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see also
Broad angry at security failures
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Abu Dhabi to hold Pakistan talks
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Sri Lanka cricketers arrive home
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CCTV 'shows Lahore gunmen escape'
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Pakistan president in gunmen vow
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Hunt for Lahore cricket attackers
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Pakistan faces loss of cricket tours
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Gunmen shoot Sri Lanka cricketers
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ICC considers World Cup changes
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Australia postpone Pakistan tour
11 Mar 08 |  Cricket
Sri Lanka in Pakistan 2009
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