'Players are obliged to play in Pak'
Australia captain Ricky Ponting says his side is contractually bound to play on the upcoming tour of Pakistan if security concerns are overcome and the trip proceeds. "Whether it's unfair or not, we've all signed off on it," Ponting said on Thursday.
"There will be lots of safety and security measures put in place and there will be all sorts of security checks done throughout Pakistan over the next few weeks to let us know as a player group whether it is actually safe to tour or not.
"If it is seen to be safe and you don't go, then that's where the breach of your contract would be."
Australia will send a security team to Pakistan in early March to decide if the tour can go ahead. Australia and Pakistan officials met in Kuala Lumpur this week during an International Cricket Council meeting to discuss potential changes to the tour that was scheduled to begin on March 10.
If the security team gives the go-ahead, the tour of three tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 match will be shortened from 48 days to 30 days and begin on March 29.
On Wednesday, allrounder Andrew Symonds said he was considering sitting out the tour due to security concerns. On Thursday, he appeared to backtrack on the statement.
"The door's ajar, but you know where I stand on it," Symonds said on Thursday.
He said if Cricket Australia told him that he was required to tour, "at the time that happens I'll have to make a decision that I'll have to stand by. Safety is at a premium, that's all it is really."
The Pakistan tour overlaps with the early part of the lucrative Indian Premier League, which begins its inaugural season on April 18. On Wednesday, Symonds fetched US$1.35 million (euro920,000) at the IPL auction, five times his reserve price and the second-highest in the auction after India's one-day captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Cricket Australia spokesman Peter Young said if Symonds skipped the Pakistan tour, he would still need CA permission to play in the IPL, and said it was "hypothetical" at this stage if that would be granted.
Pakistan has been subject to much political violence over recent months in the run-up to elections, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Meanwhile, Cricket Australia said Thursday that Australia's Test series against Bangladesh in August has been postponed until 2010 to avoid a clash with the Beijing Olympics.
Australian officials discussed the series with the Bangladesh Cricket Board at the Kuala Lumpur meetings and agreed to hold the two-test series in July-August 2010 in northern Australia. Australia will host Bangladesh for three one-day internationals in Darwin on Aug. 31, Sept. 3 and Sept. 6 this year.
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