Series 'will still go ahead'

Australia's one-day series against Pakistan goes ahead in the UAE as planned, but Cricket Australia steps up security.

The Pakistan captain Younus Khan, right, walks past a bullet-ridden bus which was carrying the Sri Lanka cricket team and attacked outside the Gaddafi Stadium.
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ABU DHABI // Australia's one-day series against Pakistan will go ahead here as planned, but Cricket Australia are to step up security following yesterday's terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team in Lahore. Australia pulled out of a tour of Pakistan last year because of security concerns. Five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 clash are to be played in Abu Dhabi and Dubai next month. Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive James Sutherland said the trip was still on pending routine security checks.

"We're scheduled to play against Pakistan in the UAE starting in late April, at this stage that tour will go ahead as planned," he said. "Of course with any tour we play overseas, it is always subject to the latest security advice we have. "We will go through our usual course of pre-tour visits ahead of that tour. Within that we reserve judgement at any stage if we feel it is not safe for our team to be in a certain place. We will take appropriate action and the appropriate steps just as we have in the past."

Sutherland said CA had every confidence in the security advice, but that the targeting of international cricketers in the Lahore attack would see even more focus on player security. "We're very aware and very concerned about security issues surrounding our team, and to others. Other members of Cricket Australia staff travel overseas from time to time," he said. "We need to be very aware and take the best possible advice. We have our own independent security consultants. We take the best advice we can from government and other sources.

"We won't in any way be stepping down, we will be stepping up in that." Pakistan is one of four host countries for the 2011 World Cup, along with India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and Sutherland admitted that would now have to be examined. "Needless to say, there would obviously be security concerns about Pakistan, who are one of the four host nations for the 2011 World Cup. Let's see how that unfolds," he said.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) said it would review plans for the World Cup following the attack. Pakistan was scheduled to stage 14 games, with one of the semi-finals slated for the Gaddafi Stadium. ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said there would now be urgent talks about whether to shift World Cup matches away from Pakistan in two years' time. "In the next day or two we will have to make some serious decisions and we will," he said.

"We can be thankful there were not more fatalities. "There obviously have been breaches and the security has not been good enough." Cricket Australia also confirmed they have begun discussions to play their postponed Test tour of Pakistan in England in July 2010 as they seek a neutral venue for the contest in the wake of today's shooting in Lahore. Australia have been reluctant travellers to Pakistan - they have not toured there since 1998.

Yesterday's events mean Test cricket is unlikely to return to Pakistan any time soon and CA spokesman Peter Young said the world's number one ranked team are in discussions with the Pakistan Cricket Board to play their postponed Test tour elsewhere. While Young admitted those discussions were only at a premature stage, a three-Test series in England next July looks the most likely scenario. Australia are due to tour England in June next year for five one-day internationals, with the Pakistan series likely to be played immediately after that.

Young revealed the England and Wales Cricket Board had also been included in discussions and were "comfortable" with a scenario that would see the series being held in the country. Young said: "We are currently talking to Pakistan about playing Test cricket. Those discussions are a work in progress and I would not like to forecast a likely outcome. "However, one option we have discussed with them is playing three Tests in England in mid-2010 or thereabouts after the ODIs we are due to play against England in England.

"I understand that England is, in principle, aware of and comfortable with that possibility, subject to details that might develop. "However, as I say, that is a continuing discussion at the moment, I don't think it is possible to predict when the current discussions might be finalised, and I don't think it is possible to predict whether the above outcome or a completely different outcome might eventuate."