Ponting keen to play against Pak

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Sydney, Jan 1 (UNI) Notwithstanding the ongoing turmoil, following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, skipper Ricky Ponting has expressed his keenness to play against Pakistan.

''We haven't played a lot of Test cricket against Pakistan in the last few years,'' Ponting said. ''I'd rather be playing cricket than not be playing.'' Several Aussie players have expressed their reservations about playing in Pakistan. Ponting however, acknowledged that the South Asian team would not want to move the three Test series to a neutral venue.

''It's been made clear that they wouldn't like to play at a neutral venue,'' he said. ''I'd like to be playing cricket at that stage.'' Meanwhile, Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik sent out a fervent appeal to the Australians to ensure that the tour goes ahead.

''I would like to speak to them personally and tell them that we will have good security for them in Pakistan. India have come here and there was a lot of talk then, but in the end there was no problem. It will be the same for Australia,'' he said.

''I do not want to comment about the politics,'' he went on.

''I am a sportsman and not very good about talking about politics.

But I would like to say that with what is happening in my country, it is getting under control, and it will get better. There is still more than two months.

''They are the best team in the world at the moment and there are many fans in Pakistan who would love to see them. Hayden, Ponting, Symonds are all very good players, and we have also got a good side to play them. It would be bad for the game and for the people in Pakistan if they did not come.'' Malik's sentiments were also echoed by former captain Imran Khan.

''I don't think the cricketers have any threat at all,'' Imran was quoted as saying by the local media.

''This is not going to last two months to when the Australians appear. In the context of cricket, there will be nothing to worry about if the tour is in March. I don't think the Australians should have any worries.'' UNI XC AB TB KP1244

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