Triumphant Pakistan are still a long way from home


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The Independent Online

Pakistan are no closer to resuming international cricket in their own country. Their magnificent victory over England in the UAE seems to have fuelled speculation that this will be their last so-called home series on neutral territory and that they will no longer feel they are pariahs.

But Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, and head of the ICC's Pakistan task force, said there are unlikely to be cricket tours to Pakistan in the near future. Although Bangladesh have agreed in principle to visit in April, security assessments are still to be made and the ICC would have to be persuaded to send its officials. "It is a complex area, you're talking about men's lives," said Clarke, who is in Dubai for an executive board meeting. "These are sportsmen, not soldiers. It's all very well to say you can create an onion ring of security and that your team will be 100 per cent safe and you will have presidential security from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave, but that will have to apply not only to players but to media, spectators and the people responsible for putting the match on. I may not have a legal duty of care, but I have a moral duty."

In the general jubilation that has accompanied Pakistan's superb performances against the world's No 1 side a return to normal business has been promoted. Last week, Zaka Ashraf, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, said: "This England series could be our last series to be held at an offshore venue. We are keen to host international teams just like other member boards are doing."

Clarke conceded that if the Bangladesh tour went ahead it could mean progress had been made. He did not, however, envisage any prospect of it. "It's very clear the players don't want to go," he said. "Unfortunately, it has never come over as the best tour and the elephant in the room is the shocking incident at Lahore when the Sri Lankan team coach was attacked and men died. That changed things."

With Pakistan leading 2-0 and the third Test starting in Dubai on Friday, it is perhaps typical of Pakistan's turbulent cricket that there is uncertainty surrounding the team even now.

The PCB has been interviewing candidates for the coach's job, which has been filled since November by the chairman of selectors, Mohsin Khan. Dav Whatmore, the former Sri Lanka coach, is favourite for the role.