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Cricket News

Australia's tour of Pakistan under increasing doubt

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Cricket Australia (CA) are bracing themselves for a possible row with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as their chances of proceeding with their scheduled tour diminish by the day.

Australia's Stuart Clark (2nd R) is congratulated by team mate Ricky Ponting (R) after taking the wicket of India's Yuvraj Singh during the tri-series one-day international cricket match in Melbourne February 10, 2008. Cricket Australia (CA) are bracing themselves for a possible row with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as their chances of proceeding with their scheduled tour diminish by the day. REUTERS/David Callow

Independent security experts have advised the Australians against visiting Pakistan because of the political uncertainty following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27.

CA is planning to send its own investigation team to assess the situation in Pakistan after next week’s elections before making a final decision, but Australia’s players have made little secret of their reluctance to tour.

“There is no doubt at all that in our dressing room there are some concerns,” Australia captain Ricky Ponting told a news conference on Thursday.

“Anybody that would be touring Pakistan at the moment, whether they be a cricketer or a day-to-day citizen, would have concerns.”

The PCB has ruled out playing the series at a neutral venue and urged the Australians to proceed with the tour, reducing the number of match venues and offering unprecedented protection to the players.

However, CA spokesman Peter Young said the association shared the players’ concerns and were prepared to reject the PCB’s offer if their own security advised against going.

“We are aware of their concerns and we share those concerns, and we won’t be sending our players anywhere that isn’t safe,” Young told reporters.

“We have to assess what is going on, but we have a good track record of getting things right and also of demonstrating that we can make hard decisions.”

The chances of the tour going ahead seem remote but Australian and Pakistan officials will discuss the situation at next week’s Future Tours meeting in Malaysia.

Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Alastair Himmer

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