The PCB insist discussions with Cricket Australia are “open and ongoing” for Australia to play in Pakistan later this year. The Pakistan board want CA to visit Pakistan for a security recce before deciding whether or not Australia play ODIs there – this despite a CA spokesperson ruling out the prospect of Australia playing in the country over the weekend.
The two sides are scheduled to play a series of five ODIs that begins late March and will take place predominantly in the UAE. But as part of its efforts to bring international cricket back to the country, the PCB has been keen for Australia to play a couple of the games in Pakistan.
“We want to see international cricket return to Pakistan – the country has a huge passion for it,” the CA spokesperson was quoted as saying in the Age on Sunday.
“However, the safety of our players and support staff is our number one priority and we won’t compromise that. We’ll continue to take advice from a range of government agencies and our own security intelligence and act on this accordingly.
“At this stage, from an Australia team perspective, we are not contemplating moving our current bilateral-tour arrangements from taking on Pakistan in the UAE, when they host the next series, but we do remain open to the idea of playing in the country again. We formally advised the PCB of this position in early January.”
The PCB confirmed receiving that communication on January 2. Five days later, however, Ehsan Mani, the PCB chairman, wrote to his CA counterpart Earl Eddings suggesting that the board at least send a recce team over first to inspect security arrangements.
“The PCB Chairman wrote a letter to the CA Chairman on 7 January, in which he had suggested that the CA, as part of a standard protocol and process for bilateral series, should send their recce team to Pakistan to receive presentations on Pakistan’s security arrangements,” a PCB spokesman told ESPNcricinfo.
“The PCB is still waiting for a response from the CA. Until the PCB hears further from the CA on their 7 January letter, we will consider this as an open and an ongoing discussion.”
Australia are the only Full Member – other than Ireland and Afghanistan, who gained membership last year – to not tour Pakistan in the last 20 years. In that time Pakistan, have ‘hosted’ home bilateral internationals against Australia in Colombo, the UAE and England.
In 2017, Australia toured Bangladesh, having sent a security recce team out to the country to satisfy themselves of the arrangements. That was a rescheduled tour from 2015, when they had pulled out for security reasons.
Some Australian players, including current Test captain Tim Paine, have played in Pakistan. Paine was part of a World XI side that played three T20Is in Lahore in 2017, alongside fellow Australians George Bailey and Ben Cutting.
Apart from that World XI series, Pakistan has hosted a T20I against Sri Lanka – the targets of the terror attack in 2009 that took the game away from the country – and the West Indies. A number of PSL games have been staged in Lahore and Karachi, and the PCB are planning to play eight more there this season.
“It would be great to get cricket back in Pakistan,” Aaron Finch, Australia’s ODI captain, said on Friday. “The passion their fans have got and just the amount of fans … (there are) some pretty empty stadiums in the UAE.
“Anytime there’s cricket back in Pakistan, they’re swinging from the rafters to get a seat.
“Is it the right time? I’m not sure … that’s between the boards and the ACA (Australian Cricketers’ Association) to work through.”