Ponting prefers to play Pakistan at neutral venue

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Sydney, Jan 1 (UNI) Amid security concerns mounting in Pakistan after former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination, Australia captain Ricky Ponting said he would prefer to play Pakistan at a neutral venue.

''I think it's been made clear they wouldn't do that (but) I'd love to be playing cricket at that stage.

''We haven't played a lot of Test cricket against Pakistan in the last few years, so it would be nice if that happened,'' Ponting said.

He added that the final decision on Australia's tour of Pakistan will be taken only after the safety and security inspection team arrives back from Pakistan next month.

''With the tour being so far away, to the players' credit there hasn't been a great deal of talk about it so far around the rooms.

''No doubt sitting back and watching the events of last week in the changerooms probably did create some grave concerns,'' he admitted.

''But we were always going to be guided by the experts on the ground in Australia and Pakistan,'' he said.

Earlier, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had issued warnings to their cricket team about travelling to Pakistan. But if CA does take the extraordinary step to go ahead with the tour, most of the senior players would be likely to opt out of it.

Chairman of the Pakistan Criket Board (PCB), Nasim Ashraf, yesterday ruled out any chance of staging the series at a neutral venue if Australia refused to tour.

''Playing at a neutral venue is not an option with us, because it's not only cricket, it's a matter of the development of the game and the fans' interest, so we are confident that Australia will not deprive our fans,'' Ashraf said.

Ashraf claimed that he believed the country would be back to normal within two weeks and that the tour would proceed as planned.

''At this point of time, the Australian team's tour is on as per schedule,'' Ashraf added.

Australia is due to play three Tests, five one-day internationals, and a Twenty20 match against Pakistan.

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