Cricket: Australian tourists `will be safe'

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The Independent Online
THE PAKISTAN Cricket Board insisted yesterday that Australia's touring party should have no worries about their safety during their forthcoming visit to Pakistan following the United States' missile strikes in Afghanistan.

"The tension is between America and Afghanistan. Pakistan is not involved in it and there is complete peace," said a PCB official, Rafi Naseem.

"We expect the tension will defuse in a couple of weeks and the Australian players should go ahead with the tour," he added. The Australians are due to play three Tests and three one-day games in Pakistan, with a mini- World Cup to be played in Bangladesh in between.

Commenting on reports that last week's US military strikes on suspected terrorist bases had made the Australia Cricket Board jittery about the team's tour to Pakistan next month, Naseem said there was no trouble in Pakistan.

"We do not expect any disturbance. Rather, cricket lovers are very anxious to witness the battle between the two best sides in the world," Naseem added.

Earlier the ACB contacted Australian foreign affairs officials to assess safety in Pakistan.

"We have sent a letter off to foreign affairs officials, although we had been in touch with them last week before the bombings when the Americans began pulling their people out," the Australian team manager, Steve Bernard, said.

"Right now things are in hand and we will be guided by any information from foreign affairs, the high commission, the Pakistani board and so on. That's our normal procedure."

An Australian foreign office spokesman said the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan was being monitored and reviewed daily. The current advice was to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan.

Australia refused to travel to Sri Lanka for the first game of the 1996 World Cup after seeking advice from the foreign affairs department and high commission in Colombo after bombings in the city.

Bernard said it was unlikely the Pakistan tour would be called off, but reiterated the safety of the players and team management was always paramount.

He and the ACB operations manager, Richard Watson, visited Pakistan earlier this month to seek assurances from the PCB chief executive, Majid Khan, that the tour was safe.

They left happy with all the tour details. But that was before the latest troubles in the region.

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