Champions Trophy threatens to tear apart world cricket

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Sydney, Jul 24: The ugly spectre of a split looms large over world cricket with players in Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa threatening to stage a revolt if the Champions Trophy is not moved out of Pakistan.

''SACA and our players share the same concerns as those of Australia, New Zealand and England,'' South African Cricketers Association (SACA) chief executive Tony Irish said last night. ''Cricket South Africa also expressed similar concerns to ours at the meeting,'' he added. Cricket Australia (CA) is also in tight spot with resentment lingering amongst some of Australia's senior players over the board's failure to stand up to the all-powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) during the home series against India in the summer.

Given the uncomfortable mood, a player backlash seems inevitable if CA ignores its own security advice after postponing the tour to Pakistan earlier this year.

The CA, however, refused to discuss its position yesterday.

''We don't go anywhere that's not safe,'' CA spokesman Peter Young said. ''Our track record speaks for itself.'' Of the three different security reports commissioned for the Champions Trophy, only the one commissioned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) suggests that it is possible to play in Pakistan under strict security arrangements.

''The ICC will not ask players, officials, media or spectators to go to a location that it regards as unsafe,'' an ICC spokesman said yesterday.

''If the Nicholls Steyn Associates (NSA) security report said it was ot possible to play in Pakistan, then the ICC would relocate the tournament,'' he added. ''NSA believes it is possible to stage the tournament in Pakistan in September.

''NSA and the ICC believe it is not possible to offer a complete guarantee of safety anywhere in the world.'' However, others who have seen the ICC's report claim that the requirements for security go way beyond what Pakistan was able to successfully manage during the six-nation Asia Cup, which took place without incident from June 24 to July 6.

The volatile strife torn country has had 66 terrorist bombings over the past 12 months with more than 3000 people killed.

Seventeen of those attacks have been in cities listed as Champions Trophy venues - Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore.

All the security reports predict further attacks in Pakistan during the coming months.

England, South Africa and Sri Lanka have been named as possible replacements if the prestigious biennial event - scheduled to begin on September 11 is relocated.

UNI

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