Bangladesh postpones Pakistan team tour

The future of cricket tours by teams to the subcontinent became bleaker Tuesday after Bangladeshi authorities said they were postponing Pakistan's tour because they could not ensure players' safety.

cricket Updated: Mar 18, 2009 02:23 IST

The future of cricket tours by teams to the subcontinent became bleaker Tuesday after Bangladeshi authorities said they were postponing Pakistan's tour because they could not ensure players' safety.

Pakistan was due to tour Bangladesh earlier this month but the dates were put on hold two days after gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in the Pakistani city of Lahore, an assault in which seven players and an assistant coach were injured two weeks ago.

Bangladesh sports minister Ahad Ali Sarker told AFP that officials in his country had decided to postpone the tour because of concerns over player safety.

"We have had to suspend the tour for the time being because of security concerns," he said, citing last month's mutiny at a military base in the Bangladeshi capital as the main reason for the postponement.

"Our law enforcement agencies are at the moment hunting rebels wanted for last month's mutiny in Dhaka so it's not possible for us to give fool-proof security to the Pakistani cricket team."

He said tours by all foreign teams in all sports codes to Bangladesh had been suspended until further notice.

The Pakistan team were originally scheduled to play two Twenty20 matches and five one-day internationals from March 10-22. Bangladesh said on March 5 it was revising the tour's itinerary and had been expected to set a March 28 date.

"Obviously the Pakistan cricket tour will take place as soon as we can ensure full security to the team," the minister added.

Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) spokesman Rabeed Imam told AFP that both countries were hopeful a new itinerary could be worked out.

"The tour has been postponed again. It's not cancelled and the Bangladesh Cricket Board is trying to work out a new schedule with the Pakistani cricket authorities."

Another BCB spokesman Jalal Yunus told AFP that a November series was possible.

"We hope that after consultation with the Pakistan cricket officials we can find a time slot, maybe in November this year, for the series to come about."

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief operating officer Salim Altaf said he was still waiting for an official acknowledgement from the Bangladesh board.

"I can't say anything at the moment and will wait for the official letter from the BCB," Altaf said.

More than 70 people died when rank-and-file border guards turned on their superiors, killing at least 56 senior army officers, during a 33-hour bloody revolt in Dhaka on February 25 and 26 last month.

The events threatened the future of Bangladesh's recently elected civilian government and exposed deep tension between it and the military.

In Lahore a convoy of Sri Lankan players, officials and coaches on their way to the second Test match two weeks ago was ambushed by gunmen firing automatic weapons, grenades and a rocket launcher. The squad was flown home immediately.

Eight Pakistanis were killed by the attackers, who escaped capture.

Cricketing authorities across the globe have raised concerns about the future of the sport in the region following the Lahore attacks.

Pakistan has faced mounting international concern about poor security for the Sri Lankan team with questions raised about the nuclear-armed nation's ability to combat Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants.

Before the Lahore attacks, Pakistan was already seen as a danger zone for international teams, who refused to tour there in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and the ensuing "war on terror."

Australia and the West Indies refused to tour in 2002, forcing Pakistan to play its home series on neutral venues, in Sri Lanka and Sharjah.

New Zealand cut short a rescheduled tour of Pakistan after a suicide blast outside the team's hotel in May 2002.

A series of suicide blasts last year prompted Australia to postpone their tour. They agreed to reschedule and split the tour into two -- for one-day games in 2009 and Tests in 2010.

The Australian government, however, again refused to clear the tour and the series will now be played in Abu Dhabi and Dubai next month.

Pakistan was dealt another blow when New Delhi did not clear its team's tour to the country amid heightened tension in the wake of November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, which India blamed on militants based across the border.

The International Cricket Council moved the elite eight-nation Champions Trophy from Pakistan to South Africa Monday after several teams refused to tour the troubled country over security fears.

First Published: Mar 18, 2009 02:22 IST