Champions Trophy faces pull-out threat

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Australia and other key nations could pull out of the Champions Trophy after the ICC decided to go ahead with the tournament in Pakistan.

Updated: July 27, 2008 17:49 IST
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Holders Australia and other key nations could pull out of the Champions Trophy after the International Cricket Council decided to go ahead with the tournament in Pakistan, officials said on Friday.

The Australian and New Zealand players' associations called on their country's governing bodies not to send teams to Pakistan, while England players will be asked if they want to travel.

The ICC said on Thursday it would appoint a commission to ensure security at the September 11-28 showpiece but it was not enough to quash concerns about the threat of Islamic militant attacks in Pakistan.

"We've gone through this with a fine-tooth comb and we don't think the risk to go to Pakistan is acceptable. I am very hopeful Cricket Australia will make that decision," Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) chief executive Paul Marsh said.

"It would be unfair to put that decision back on the players and it would be inconsistent to put that decision back on players given what's happened in the past."

Marsh said the ACA was "disappointed" with the ICC's decision and was still seeking clarity on the security task force proposed by the sport's global governing body.

Cricket Australia, which makes the final decision on whether to take part in the tournament, was expected to make a statement later Friday.

In New Zealand, cricket players' association president Heath Mills said all of the players that he had spoken to were uncomfortable about travelling to Pakistan.

"We're very disappointed by the decision out of the ICC overnight," Mills told Radio New Zealand.

"There's been a strong view that we don't think Pakistan is a safe work place for the players and our position hasn't changed," Mills said.

"It's our strong recommendation to the players that they don't travel to Pakistan at this point in time."

Governing organisation New Zealand Cricket said it was talking to the players' association and its own board about safety concerns.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) meanwhile said it would consult key figures in the squad to see if they were still willing to make the trip and a decision could come as soon as Friday.

If the players opt not to go, the ECB would have to decide whether to send an under-strength team or pull out of the event entirely.

"Following the decision of the ICC, the ECB will be having further extensive discussions with a number of key stakeholders -- including England players and Team England -- to determine our decision," an ECB spokesman said.

"Once those discussions are concluded, the ECB will be in a position to make a clear decision."

The Pakistan Cricket Board tried to allay fears over security, saying on Friday that they were more dedicated than ever to staging a safe tournament.

"Yes, we are relieved and more focused now that a decision has finally been made, although we always had confidence in the wisdom of the ICC board," PCB chief operating officer Shafqat Naghmi told AFP.

"I hope the task force would allay the fears of all the individuals and, by overseeing our arrangements, keep us well prepared for a successful event," Naghmi said.

The eight-member task force, headed by ICC president David Morgan, is likely to visit Pakistan next month.

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said late Thursday that the prospect of pullouts was an "obvious concern", but urged players not to withdraw, saying the ICC would do all in its power to ensure their safety.

"It's not something that I treat lightly, but I think it's something that we can manage," Lorgat told reporters in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo.

But the ACA's Marsh said the ICC's decision was bad for the game.

"If it (the tournament) continues in Pakistan at this volatile time, unfortunately many of the world's best players won't participate, which is not a good outcome for cricket," he said.

Australia postponed a full tour of Pakistan in March-April this year due to the security situation. However, they agreed to reschedule the tour in two visits -- one-dayers in 2009 and Tests in 2010.

New Zealand cut short a tour of Pakistan in May 2002 after a bomb blast outside their hotel in the southern city of Karachi killed 19 people, including 14 French naval staff.

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