The International Cricket Council opted for the least offensive and most prudent option available to it yesterday, when it postponed next month's Champions Trophy in Pakistan. If the volatility that currently exists in Pakistan subsides the tournament is scheduled to take place there in October 2009.
The ICC reached its decision during a teleconference call yesterday. In it five of the eight competing teams said they would not be prepared to send players and officials to Pakistan on grounds of safety and security. South Africa led the way on Friday when they announced they would not be sending a team. Australia, England, New Zealand and West Indies were the other countries not prepared to take the necessary risks.
Other options open to the ICC were inviting other countries and continuing with the tournament in Pakistan, or moving it to another country. Each of the alternatives would have created huge problems for cricket's governing body. Putting on a tournament without many of the game's leading names would have created massive issues between the ICC and its broadcasting and sponsorship stakeholders, whilst moving it to Sri Lanka could have caused a potential split in world cricket. Pakistan last week stated that it would refuse to send a team if the tournament was moved to another country.
"There was unanimity in the decision to postpone the event until October next year – appeasement wasn't part of the meeting at all," said David Morgan, the ICC President. "There was a realisation that, under the current circumstances some of the teams due to compete had reservations about touring there which could not be removed. In those circumstances it was considered prudent to postpone the event to October 2009, a time when we all hope conditions will be more acceptable for all the competing teams.
"The Pakistan Cricket Board have been extremely reasonable about the whole subject, they have worked jolly hard to try to give comfort to the member boards, and the eight teams that are touring, that it would be safe and secure. Unfortunately five of the participating nations found it impossible to send their team to Pakistan because of safety concerns.
"Had the decision been made a month ago I'm sure the tournament would be taking place in Sri Lanka. But the amount of time it took the participating nations to come to their decision not to attend has reduced the time between now and the start of the tournament. It was just impossible to relocate and stage a world class tournament."
Giles Clarke, the Chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board believes the ICC made the correct decision. "The ECB supports the decision of the ICC to postpone the Champions Trophy until October 2009," said Clarke. "The ECB made it clear to ICC Chief executive Haroon Lorgat at a meeting at Lord's last week that the ECB had a duty to care for England players and officials as well as a desire to ensure the interests of the media and spectators were not compromised.
"The ECB explained their reservations and security concerns about staging the tournament in the aftermath of the resignation of the Pakistan president, Pervez Musharraf, last Monday. These concerns were shared by four other competing countries at yesterday's teleconference. The ECB recognises the outstanding efforts of the Pakistan Cricket Board in attempting to mitigate the risks surrounding the Champions Trophy and I will be meeting with the incoming chairman of the PCB, once an appointment is made, to discuss ways that our two boards can work together in the future."
Kevin Pietersen, the England captain, was equally pleased with the outcome of Sunday's meeting. "It's great that the boards have taken the decision," said Pietersen. "Players voiced their concerns from all around the world. All the players I know personally from other countries have expressed their concerns in terms of safety and security. It was good that it was taken out of our players' hands.
"Over the last couple of weeks it has been a huge topic of conversation in the dressing room. And last Sunday's briefing was a huge talking point. This whole week there's been ifs and buts and dos and don'ts. What I said to the team was to put it to the back of our minds because the most important thing for us is the one-day series with South Africa, and that means standing up to be counted on Tuesday. This is a huge decision and cricket can now take priority again."
l South Africa are hoping to pick from a full squad for tomorrow's second one-day series match in Nottingham. At Headingley injury deprived the Proteas of two of their star players, the Morkel brothers Albie and Morne. Both are recovering well and maybe available for selection at Trent Bridge. South Africa, who trail 1-0 in the five-match series, are in definite need of them.