ICC to review 2011 World Cup plans

The International Cricket Council will urgently review the 2011 World Cup plans after gunmen fired on the Sri Lankan team bus in a deadly attack in Pakistan.

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NEW DELHI // The International Cricket Council (ICC) will urgently review 2011 World Cup plans after gunmen fired on the Sri Lankan team bus in a deadly attack in Pakistan earlier today. India's independent Times Now television quoted the ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat as saying the ICC would review the World Cup plans within 48 hours after the attack in Lahore raised fresh doubts about the willingness of foreign teams to travel and play in Pakistan.

Pakistan is scheduled to co-host the next World Cup with India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. An ICC spokesman later said that there was no time frame yet for the review. "We're obviously going to have a review, but no decision on when has been taken," the ICC spokesman Brian Murgatroyd said. Mr Murgatroyd said any decision on the World Cup would be taken by the ICC's executive board, which is scheduled to meet next month. He said it was possible for the ICC to bring the meeting forward.

A dozen men used rifles, grenades and rocket launchers to attack a bus and van carrying the Sri Lankan team and officials to Gaddafi Stadium for the third day of the second Test, injuring seven players and a member of the coaching staff and killing six police officers and a civilian. Two Sri Lankan players were treated in the hospital. Six other members of the squad had minor injuries, none life-threatening.

The tour was immediately cancelled and the Sri Lankan team was returning to Colombo via Abu Dhabi today. India and Pakistan jointly hosted two World Cups in 1987 and 1996, with Sri Lanka coming in as a third host in 1996. Since deciding the hosts for the 2011 World Cup, the ICC has witnessed deteriorating stability in Pakistan with several nations refusing to send their teams due to security concerns.

Amid mounting criticism of the security situation, the ICC was last year forced to postpone the biennial limited-overs Champions Trophy tournament, which was scheduled to be held in Pakistan. The ICC has now decided to shift the Champions Trophy to another country, with the UAE and South Africa mentioned as possible venues. Sharad Pawar, an Indian legislator who is also the ICC's president elect, said on Monday that Pakistan will now find it difficult to host World Cup matches.

"In the current situation, it's very difficult for Pakistan to co-host the 2011 World Cup," Mr Pawar was quoted as saying by independent New Delhi Television. Mr Pawar heads the four-nation organising committee for the 2011 World Cup, but each national board will have its own committees for organising matches. Reacting to the possibility of missing out on hosting World Cup matches, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said "all talk about the World Cup was premature."

"We've received a message from the ICC, but it's just to support us in this difficult time," said Salim Altaf, the chief operating officer of the Pakistan board. "The World Cup is still two years away, but reservations among foreign teams may have increased." At a meeting of the organising committee in New Delhi two weeks ago, Mr Lorgat said the four joint hosts should consider shifting matches from one city to another, or from one country to another, if the situation required. Eight of the 15 host cities nominated for the World Cup are in India, four in Pakistan, two in Sri Lanka and one in Bangladesh.

Pakistan did not play a Test match for 14 months, with foreign teams withdrawing from tours. India cancelled its proposed tour this year in the midst of growing political tension between the two nations. The Sri Lankan tour was hastily arranged to replace India. Pakistan will play Australia in a one-day series in the UAE in April to May. The Board of Control for Cricket in India president Shashank Manohar said Pakistan may now struggle to attract foreign teams. "Teams may not want to go to Pakistan for another four or five years," Mr Manohar told New Delhi Television.

"The ICC will have to ponder over the chances of playing World Cup matches in Pakistan." *AP