Pakistan is unlikely to go ahead with a planned one-day series against Sri Lanka later this month due to lack of sponsor interest, a Pakistan Cricket Board official said on Wednesday.
"Efforts to organize matches against Sri Lanka have encountered difficulties and the main thing is lack of sponsors' interest in the series," PCB spokesman Mansoor Suhail told the Associated Press. "The way things stand at the moment, it's highly unlikely that the series will be played."
The PCB expects to make a final decision on the proposed series this week.
The five-match limited-overs series was planned in Sri Lanka to fill the gap created after the Champions Trophy was postponed for a year due to security fears in Pakistan.
Pakistan had earlier also tried to organize a triangular series in South Africa also featuring Sri Lanka, but Cricket South Africa refused, saying its players were exhausted after a tour of England. The likely cancellation of the Sri Lanka series adds to the dearth of international cricket for Pakistan.
Pakistan has not played a test match in 2008. It has hosted only two one-day series against weaker oppositions Zimbabwe and Bangladesh earlier this year and the Asia Cup one-day tournament. Security concerns prompted Australia to postpone its scheduled tour in March this year, and Australia joined England, South Africa and New Zealand in lobbying the International Cricket Council to postpone the Champions Trophy until Oct 2009.
Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik has asked the ICC to help Pakistan by asking its member countries to arrange series. "Pakistan cricket is going through a dark era and it is a very depressing situation that no international cricket activity is taking place in Pakistan," Malik was quoted as saying in The News newspaper on Wednesday.
"I know it's not easy to arrange such series on a short notice, but ICC being the parent body of cricket can do it," Malik said. "(The ICC) should put its weight behind any move for an away one-day or test series," he added.
Pakistan is currently placed at No 6 in both test and one-day rankings. Prolific batsman Muhammad Yousuf is the sole Pakistani nomination in the ODI Player of the Year category of the ICC awards. "It's quite alarming both for our team and players as we have slipped down in the test rankings and our players are suffering because they didn't get chance to play test cricket for the last eight months," Shoaib said.
Pakistan's next test is not scheduled until January 2009 when India is slated to tour.
It's next major international assignment is a quadrangular Twenty20 tournament in Toronto, Canada next month in which the host nation, Sri Lanka and the West Indies are the other competing nations.