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Pak take guard with Youth Cup

Karachi: Pakistan will host a string of international cricket tournaments starting with the 10-nation Asia Youth Cup this month, which officials said “shows reviving confidence in the country’s improved security environment”.

“It is a good opportunity for Pakistan to once again establish itself as a safe venue to play cricket,” Pakistan Cricket Board official Zakir Khan said.

The Asia Youth Cup marks the first major sporting event involving foreign teams since New Zealand cut short their tour of Pakistan in May last year after a bomb blast outside their hotel in Karachi.

Pakistan had to play two home Test series on neutral venues as West Indies and Australia refused to tour the country over security fears, triggered by the US-led war on terrorism in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Top-level cricket will also return to Pakistan as the country hosts Bangladesh, South Africa and New Zealand between August and November this year. “We are delighted to host teams which aren’t concerned about the security,” Zakir, a former pace bowler, said.

The Asia Youth Cup, starting July 14, will take place in seven venues in Karachi with the finalists qualifying for the Youth World Cup in Bangladesh in January-February next year.

The Asia Cup, originally scheduled for Singapore, was relocated following the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The 10 participating teams are divided in two pools with United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Singapore, Nepal and Qatar in Pool A while Malaysia, Kuwait, Hong Kong, Oman and Thailand are in Group B.

Bangladesh’s Athar Ali Khan is the chairman and tournament director while India’s Roger Binny and Rumesh Ratnayake of Sri Lanka are the members.

Dr Vaes Paes heads the medical committee. “We welcome the Indians who are involved in this competition.

“It just goes on to show that the relations between the two countries are on the mend,” Zakir added.

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