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Sunday, 8 February 2009

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Pakistan says lost Trophy after three teams baulked

CRICKET: LAHORE, Pakistan, Feb 7, 2009: The head of Pakistan's cricket board said Friday he was forced to accept relocation of the Champions Trophy after three countries refused to play here.

The International Cricket Council decided Sunday not to hold the 2009 Champions Trophy in Pakistan because of security fears in the troubled country, where militant attacks have killed more than 1,500 people in 19 months.

An alternative venue is expected to be announced at the next ICC executive board meeting in April in Dubai.

"Three countries were not ready to tour Pakistan for the Champions Trophy," said Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ijaz Butt on his return from the ICC meeting. He refused to reveal the names of the countries.

Several teams have refused to tour Pakistan over safety concerns since Islamabad joined the so-called global "war on terror" led by the United States.

Pakistan has been providing logistical support to US forces who led an invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan and has deployed its own troops to fight Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists hunkered down in the northwest of the country.

Australia and the West Indies forced Pakistan to play in the neutral venues of Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates in 2002.

New Zealand, Australia and India then refused to tour Pakistan or cut short tours over security fears or political tensions.

The elite eight-nation Champions Trophy, originally scheduled for September 2008, had been postponed by a year after South Africa pulled out and Australia, England and New Zealand expressed reluctance to visit over security fears.

Although Pakistan will not host the event, they will retain the revenue that the country had been owed as hosts and get a six-million-dollar fee.

Butt said the priority for the PCB was to ensure Pakistan's national side, which did not play a single Test last year after Australia postponed a three-Test and five-match one-day series, gets to play some cricket. "No one is ready to play in Pakistan, so by moving outside we want to give our team some cricket," said Butt, confirming Pakistan will play five one-dayers and a Twenty20 match against Australia in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

"Cricket Australia was ready to send their team to Pakistan but their government refused permission as they think the players can become targets because the Australian army is fighting in Afghanistan," said Butt.

"We are helpless and that is not our fault."

Pakistan will host Sri Lanka for a two-Test series later this month after last month's one-day series, before playing Australia in April-May. AFP

 

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