ICC chief hails Pak as a great host

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/i/icccricket.jpg' class='caption'> ICC President Ray Mali expressed his confidence in Pakistan as the Champions Trophy host, apparently setting aside security concerns expressed by teams.

Updated: June 22, 2008 17:30 IST
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ICC President Ray Mali on Wednesday hailed Pakistan "a great host" of the Champions Trophy and said the country's passion for cricket would shine during the prestigious tournament.

Mali said Pakistan was a country of cricket loving people and the Champions Trophy, starting September 11, would be held as per schedule, apparently setting aside security concerns expressed by some teams.

"Pakistan has the venues, but more importantly, it also has the passion to do real justice to what we at the ICC believe will be a superb event," he said at the tournament's launch and unveiling of logo in Lahore on Wednesday.

"We all know just how important the game of cricket is to countless numbers of people in this country - and come September the whole world will get the chance to see Pakistan's love of and hunger for the game first hand.

"Pakistan is going to be a great host to a great tournament," he said at a colourful ceremony attended by top PCB and ICC officials.

PCB Chairman Nasim Ashraf said with Pakistan hosting an ICC event for the first time in 12 years, the board was committed to making it the best ever Champions Trophy.

"We are absolutely thrilled and delighted at hosting the Champions Trophy which is the second most important tournament after the ICC Cricket World Cup. With this being the first ICC event to be held in Pakistan for 12 years, we are excited and committed to making it the best-ever," he said.

"With the tournament to be played under a new format, I have no doubt that this event will go down in history as one of the most keenly contested events. This tournament will provide us an excellent opportunity to show our passion for cricket and our traditional hospitality."

The eight participating teams have been divided into two groups. Group A includes defending champion Australia, India, Pakistan and the West Indies while South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and England are in Group B. The 15 matches of the tournament will be held at three venues -- Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi. The eight teams will play against each other once in a round robin format before the two semifinals in Karachi and Rawalpindi, and final at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, which also hosted the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1996.

Advisor on Interior Affairs to the Prime Minister, Rehman Malik, who was also present, said cricket was in the blood of Pakistanis and for them it was an honour to host the eight-nation tournament.

"The government will take every possible step to ensure this event is hosted smoothly. Pakistan has the ability to host international sporting events successfully," Malik insisted.

He said all the participating teams and players should not have any apprehensions about playing in Pakistan.

"We are happy that the ICC has given us this honour and we are coordinating on a regular basis with the Pakistan Cricket Board and ICC to finalise the security plan for the event," he said.

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