SYDNEY: Cricket Australia (CA) hopes to tour Pakistan in 2022, but CEO Kevin Roberts said security remains a concern and would never jeopardize players' safety.
Most international teams have refused to visit the nation of South Asia since the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by armed men during a test in Lahore in March 2009, leaving six injured players. Six policemen and two civilians were killed.
Roberts returned from Pakistan on Thursday after the first trip of an Australian delegation of high-level cricket in more than a decade.
The team has not played there since 1998, on the advice of the government, but it is scheduled for a tour in early 2022 and Roberts told Melbourne SEN radio that he wanted to see for himself the situation on the ground.
"The purpose was to really understand the landscape, look at the plans they have around security and then begin to express our expectations about the safety of our players and our support staff more than two years away from when we are on the tour , " he said.
“Things are going in the right direction. By saying we were traveling in armored vehicles and escorted by the police and we felt very safe there. But certainly that level of security is still required at this point. "
Roberts said "we would love to see the return of international cricket to Pakistan," but he warned that "we would never endanger our people."
His comments came when the Sri Lankan cricket board said this week that they would move forward with an upcoming six-game tour of Pakistan despite fears that players could be targeted by terrorist attacks.
When asked if he could realistically see Australia touring Pakistan during his tenure, Roberts said: “I really hope we do it for the sake of world cricket and Australia's important relationship with Pakistan.
“As I told Pakistan, we share your wish for international cricket to return to your country. We hope that the next two years we plan a tour in 2022, but we must establish it carefully, little by little, instead of rushing to do it.
Roberts is in contact with other cricket nations on the subject and said his trip had prompted plans for similar visits from the executive directors of England and Ireland over the next month.
"It's really good that the cricket world is opening their hearts and minds to the role of Pakistan and proactively looking at what it will take to return international cricket to Pakistan," he said.
"Certainly, there are parts of the country that are very insecure, but there are other parts where I believe that several nations will contemplate playing again in the future when Pakistan is ready."
Posted on Dawn, September 21, 2019