CT: Ponting prepared, but top stars wary

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/p/ponting2_ap.jpg' class='caption'> Cricket's elite captains on Thursday threw their weight behind the ICC Champions Trophy 2008, which will be held in Pakistan this September.

Updated: June 22, 2008 17:39 IST
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New Delhi:

Australian skipper Ricky Ponting on Thursday threw his weight behind the ICC Champions Trophy 2008, which will be held in Pakistan this September.

The captain of the defending champions said his side was already focused on retaining the trophy, the second most important tournament after the ICC Cricket World Cup.

According to an ICC media release, Ponting said: "The ICC Champions Trophy is a major tournament on our radar and one that we were extremely pleased to win for the first time in 2006 in India.

"We are particularly focused on performing well this year in the Champions Trophy in Pakistan and I am excited by the prospect of some new Australian players having the opportunity to be tested against the world's best 50-over players.

"Competition is always tough in this tournament and we are expecting a great challenge again in Pakistan during September."

However, according to reports in a section of the Australian media, Cricket Australia is heading towards a major crisis with its leading cricketers set to boycott the Champions Trophy in Pakistan owing to security apprehensions.

The Sydney Morning Herald claimed that most of the leading Australian cricketers would pull out of the event if the International Cricket Council (ICC) was adamant about holding the elite tournament, second only to World Cup in stature, in the trouble-torn country.

"It is going to come down to the individual's decision," an anonymous member of the Australian team, currently touring West Indies, told the daily.

"We have talked about it, and there are some guys who will go if security advice says it's OK. But there are others who have said they won't go, regardless. At this stage, we are waiting to hear more," he added.

Earlier this year, all-rounder Andrew Symonds did not hide his reluctance to tour Pakistan and Australia had no other option but to defer the full series to 2009-10 after consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Though CA is aware of the players' mood, the board would prefer its player to play in Champions Trophy even though it looks a distant possibility now.

Incidentally, players from New Zealand, England and South Africa too are apprehensive about touring Pakistan.

Though the ICC and the Pakistan Cricket Board have been asserting that security would not be an issue for the players, the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) is not convinced yet and would conduct a recce of its own before giving thumbs-up to the event.

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