Aussie players uneasy over Pakistan tour

Several Australian players may withdraw from next year’s tour to Pakistan even if Cricket Australia’s (CA) security team gives a positive account after its February pre-tour inspection, according to reports on Monday.

The assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and subsequent unrest—as well as uncertainty over scheduled January 8 elections—have placed a question mark over the tour.

Australia are due to play three Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 match in Pakistan in March and April.

The decision could be made for the players if the votes does not go ahead, with Cricket Australia unlikely to approve the tour if the polls are postponed and political instability continues, reports said.

Test all-rounder Andrew Symonds voiced his concerns over touring Pakistan, but reports said another Australian Test player revealed that security fears are widespread throughout the team.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the player told the Sydney Morning Herald there was a possibility that a number of players would withdraw even if Cricket Australia gives the go-ahead.

“People are concerned, there is no doubt about it,” the player said. “These are genuine concerns, and there are obviously a few issues to sort through.

“It would be naive to think that everybody was rosy with going. Some people are going to have stronger opinions on it than others.

“Cricket Australia are going to send a security delegation, and we will all be very interested in what they have to say, but in the end it’s an individual decision, and I don’t think you could say 100% that every individual is going to be OK with it.”

“We’re all aware of what’s going on at the moment, and there is obviously a fair bit of time before the tour, so things could calm down,” the player went on.

“Quite a few of the boys have been there before, either with the national team or on A-team tours, so there’s a bit of knowledge about what lies ahead.

“Having said that, the landscape has changed quite a lot since Australian teams were there, so we’ll just have to wait and see what information comes back from CA.”

Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) chief executive Paul Marsh said he will brief the players on the crisis in Pakistan while they are in Sydney for this week’s second Test against India.

Marsh said each player was legally entitled to make an individual decision about touring Pakistan without breaching his contract, as leg-spinner Stuart MacGill did in withdrawing from the 2004 tour of Zimbabwe for moral reasons.

“We want to reach a collective decision but the players obviously have that ultimate right,” the players’ union chief said.

“We would rather it’s a one-in, all-in either way, but if a player comes to us and says that if the tour was to proceed they don’t want to go, then we would support that and we believe the players are entitled to do that.

“The players have the right to make a decision.
If Cricket Australia decided the tour should proceed, the players will obviously then be faced with the decision, do we go or do we individually or collectively decide not to go?”

However, Marsh said Cricket Australia and the ACA had a track record of making the right calls about security and it was premature to make a decision on Pakistan.—AFP

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