Australian officials to visit Pakistan to decide on tour

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Melbourne, Feb 10 (UNI) Cricket Australia (CA) officials will travel to Pakistan to determine if the coming tour of the troubled South Asian nation will proceed.

According to CA Chief Executive James Sutherland, the timing of the mission would be determined by intelligence from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

''We had discussions during the week and it is up to them to suggest the appropriate time to visit -- pre-elections or post-elections,'' Sutherland said, adding the CA also was taking advice from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.

The CA's Michael Brown, Players' Association boss Paul Marsh, Australian team manager Steve Bernard and the CA's security expert are on standby to fly to Pakistan.

The Australian tour to Pakistan, which was scheduled to start in March this year, was thrown into uncertainty due to widespread unrest following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The violence, which affected several major cities, threw up security concerns at several venues.

''Pakistan, currently, is considering which venues would be most appropriate. They seem determined that the tour should proceed, but equally they are aware of the hot spots of political unrest,'' Sutherland said.

''Obviously it would be preferable to play at major venues away from any unrest. We have been to Pakistan often enough recently with A teams and under-19s to know what to expect at particular venues.'' Meanwhile, former Australian fast bowler Michael Kasprowicz has offered an interesting solution to the problem.

''You don't want the series abandoned,'' he said, adding Australia should offer to host the series.

''Why not give them the TV rights and the lion's share of the gate?'' Australia's last tour to Pakistan in 2002 was transferred to Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates.

UNI XC AB RR KP1245

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