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We’re worried about touring Pak: Ponting

Sydney: Australia’s cricketers were still apprehensive about competing in Pakistan for the Champions Trophy in September, captain Ricky Ponting said in an absolute volte-face.

The Australia captain had said on Thursday that the players are eager to give a good account of themselves in the tournament next only to the ODI World Cup.

Australia postponed their tour of Pakistan earlier this year after a spate of suicide bombings following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December.

“We don’t know if we’re going, and if we do go, we don’t know if individuals are going to pull out,” Ponting, who is still on tour in the West Indies, was quoted as saying. “But what we know right now is, yes, there is some apprehension amongst some of the players and that was stated last summer. I don’t think that would have changed until now.

“It might change in the coming weeks. If we get some good news from the security reports over there, then the individual’s mindset might change a little bit.”

Ponting added the team would be guided by advice from Cricket Australia (CA)’s own security staff, the Australian Cricketers’ Association and the Australian government.

“We understand there has been a bit of trouble over there in the last few weeks, but we’re always guided by the experts,” Ponting said. “To Cricket Australia and the players’ association’s credit, I think they’ve handled the last couple of tours there very well. Obviously, the government’s involvement last time probably helped us all out.”

He also said his team were not alone in expressing apprehension in touring Pakistan, with other teams also concerned about safety during the 18-day tournament, which is being staged in three cities — Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi.

“Let’s not forget that we probably won’t be the only ones in that situation,” he added. “I’m sure some of the England players will have some concerns, I’m sure a lot of the New Zealand players who have been confronted with this stuff before, in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, will have some pretty serious concerns.

“It just won’t be Australian players. There will be a few other teams who will be thinking long and hard if the tour does go ahead there.”

Meanwhile, facing a tricky situation, CA is sending an expert to assess the security situation. Security expert Reg Dickason, on whose advice the CA had postponed their tour to Pakistan in March-April, is again heading to Pakistan next week to assess the situation there. An expert on security in Asia, Dickason has worked with the Australian team for a decade and is currently in the West Indies with the Australian side.

He has also worked with the England and New Zealand teams and was in Karachi when a suicide bomber blew up a naval bus outside the team hotel where the Kiwis were put up.

The ICC said if any team or player has any reservation about the security aspect, the governing body was ready to deal with the issue. “We will deal with any team’s concern and reservations when the need arises...(but) let’s not answer hypothetical questions at this stage,” an ICC official said.

“I don’t know which countries have shown reservations but from what we have seen, the situation here is quite encouraging,” he said.

Dave Richardson, acting ICC chief executive, was more cautious with his words. “We cannot say with absolute certainty the event is going to be held in Pakistan… as you know that the security situation is very fluid,” he said. “We have put into place a process to monitor the security position on a daily basis,” he said. (Agencies)

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