ISLAMABAD // The former cricket star Zaheer Abbas fears his country will be left alone in the international sporting wilderness if India refuses to tour in January for security reasons. "We will be like orphans in international cricketing community," Abbas told the Associated Press today. "Already most of the Test playing countries are not touring Pakistan and if India does not come it will be worst for us." India are scheduled to play three Test matches, five limited-overs internationals and a Twenty20 international during their Jan 4-Feb 19 tour to Pakistan.
However, there are doubts over the tour after militant attacks killed at least 172 in Mumbai last Wednesday. The Indian government had earlier refused permission to their junior hockey team to play five matches in Pakistan last month because of security concerns. Australia postponed their tour to Pakistan last March, citing security concerns, and the Champions Trophy in September was also deferred for a year after four more teams - New Zealand, South Africa, England and the West Indies - expressed reservations over travelling to Pakistan.
"I think the Asian countries which are part of the International Cricket Council (ICC) should stand united in this hour of need and should continue playing the bilateral series," Abbas said. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are also considering an option of shifting the January series against India to a neutral venue. "It will set a wrong precedent and moreover it will be a huge financial loss for the PCB," Abbas said.
Pakistan have played Test matches in the past against Australia and the West Indies in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Sharjah, UAE, in 2002, but PCB chairman Ejaz Butt said last week the home board incurred financial losses at that time. "How could we inspire youngsters in our country if we play at a neutral venue?" Abbas, who scored 108 first-class centuries, said. "We are placed at No. 6 in the ICC Test rankings and the only way to improve is if we play more Test matches." Pakistan are the only one of the nine active Test playing nations who did not play a Test match in 2008.
Abbas, who scored 12 centuries and 5,062 runs in 78 Tests, said it was high time that Pakistan started taking its own decisions. "Look, we have banned all the players who are competing in the Indian Cricket League (ICL) and our cricket is almost stuck with this security scenario," he said. Pakistan has suspended all 19 players including present cricketers - Rana Naved, Imran Farhat, Imran Nazir and Abdul Razzaq - for joining the unsanctioned, rebel ICL in India.
"We should start taking our own decisions and lift suspension on ICL players," Abbas said. "By doing so we will make our team more strong in international cricket." The Board of Control for Cricket in India has sought its government clearance over sending its team to neighbouring Pakistan and is still waiting for a response. *AP