South Africa withdrew Friday from next month's Champions Trophy in Pakistan due to security fears, creating an uncertain future for the entire tournament.
The decision was made following a meeting Friday morning with the International Cricket Council's task force in Johannesburg. ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat could not offer sufficient assurances about the players' safety in a country blighted by extremist violence.
Concerns about the country's security were heightened following a spate of suicide attacks by Islamic extremists, with twin blasts killing at least 67 people Thursday near Islamabad. "After extensive discussions and frank exchange of views, the board resolved not to send our team at this time to Pakistan to participate in the ICC Champions Trophy," Cricket South Africa president Norman Arendse said Friday. "We respect the right of the Pakistan Cricket Board to stage the tournament and we would urge the ICC to reschedule the tournament as soon as possible." The ICC board will hold a teleconference Sunday to decide whether to postpone or relocate the event, or to invite replacement countries. Sri Lanka remains the standby venue.
The players' union representing Australia's cricketers has said the holder would not participate in the Sept. 12-28 tournament. Players from England and New Zealand have also expressed reservations about visiting Pakistan, although South Africa is the first of the eight participating nations to officially withdraw. "This was a difficult decision but it was the right one. There is nothing more important than the safety of our national team," said Tony Irish, chief executive of the South African Cricketers' Association. "We appreciate all the efforts of the ICC task team, the Pakistan Cricket Board, the Pakistan authorities and the security consultants.
"The players are naturally disappointed for their fans and the people of Pakistan that they will not have a chance to see them in action in that country in September."
The ICC has been on a global mission to allay fears, with the task force meeting the England and Wales Cricket Board on Tuesday after facing resistance in Melbourne last week from players and Cricket Australia representatives.
The other nations contesting the trophy are India, which is backing Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies.