PCB ready to play more home series at neutral venues

Karachi: Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Saturday announced that it would be playing more major home series at neutral venues because of the refusal of teams to play in Pakistan because of the security situation.

PCB said the England and Wales Cricket Board had confirmed a full series of three Tests, five One-day internationals and a T20 match against Pakistan in early 2012 but the series would most probably be played at venues in the United Arab Emirates.

“There is nothing we can do as far as the security situation is concerned. We keep on our process of convincing teams to come and play in Pakistan but until the security situation is clear we just have to rely on neutral venues,” Subhan Ahmed, PCB Chief Operating Officer, told reporters.

“The ECB has confirmed the number of matches for January-February 2012 and venues are being finalized. The series is part of the ICC future tours programme,” Subhan said.

Ahmed also said that Sri Lanka were also due to play a “home” series in Pakistan in October-November next year but that series could also be held at a neutral venue or even in Sri Lanka.

There has been no international cricket in Pakistan since March 2009 after militants ambushed the Sri Lankan team that was in Lahore to play a Test match.

Six policemen and a van driver were killed in the deadly attack and several Sri Lankan players were wounded, leading to the ICC not only shifting World Cup matches from Pakistan but foreign teams also refused to tour Pakistan because of security concerns.

But the finalisation of the series against England is good news for Pakistan cricket since relations between the two boards took a nose dive in September after a statement from the PCB Chairman, following the spot-fixing scandal in England during the Pakistan team’s tour.

PCB chief Ijaz Butt angered the ECB and its players after he said in an interview that he had heard that England players were also involved in fixing matches.

The strong reaction of the ECB and players association led to Butt then flying to London to meet with ECB officials to mend fences.

ECB provided neutral venues to Pakistan for its “home” series against Australia this year.

Subhan said the PCB was constantly in touch with other boards to play in Pakistan including India but the tight international schedule also prevented things from taking shape.

“We ourselves are not in a position to host Zimbabwe for a one-day series soon although they have agreed to come to Pakistan. Simply because our team is busy until June next year and we don’t have any cricket in July and August and then we’ll play against Sri Lanka,” he explained.

He said even they had a tight schedule for matches against India.

“Even if we manage to play against India the series which was cancelled in early 2009 after the Mumbai incident, the matches would be split in different time frames,” he said.