Australia, England and NZ set to join SA; PCB still wants to host

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Lahore, Aug 24 (UNI) It seems it's all over for Pakistan as three major cricket playing countries - England, New Zealand and Australia - have decided to withdraw from the Champions Trophy, scheduled to be held in the strife-torn nation next month, citing security concerns.

While South Africa has already made it clear that it will not visit Pakistan, highly-placed sources in the Sports Ministry confirmed that the three nations have withdrawn from the Champions Trophy to be played in Lahore and Karachi.

''It's over for Pakistan at the moment but the Ministry of Sports officials have been discussing Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) options as well as ways of holding the event in Pakistan at any other time,'' the source said.

He said even West Indies was keen to reconsider its decision to tour Pakistan and might join the bandwagon due to the existing law and order situation in the country.

''During the briefing it was decided that Federal Sports Minister Najamuddin Khan will meet the ambassadors of the three countries (Australia, England and New Zealand)to impress upon them that Pakistan is a safe country and there are no security threats to their cricketers during the event,'' the source added.

PCB COO Shafqat Naghmi briefed the Ministry of Sports top officials here at the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) yesterday about the individual players from New Zealand, Australia and England raising security concerns over having to play in Pakistan.

''We have given a comprehensive briefing to the Federal Sports Minister Najamuddin Khan and Secretary Sports Ashraf Khan about the recent meetings with the ICC officials in Dubai and the outcome of the teleconference,'' Naghmi said.

Naghmi said a decision of withdrawl from England, Australia and New Zealand is expected.

''Yes, we think there is likely to be a formal announcement of their withdrawal to be made sometime now,'' he said.

However, the PCB COO made it very clear that the PCB will not let the event shift to any other venue if it is not able to host Champions Trophy.

''We will not let this happen as we have taken a firm stance on holding the Champions Trophy in Pakistan.

''But if such a decision is made by the governing body, we reserve the right to boycott the ICC Champions Trophy,'' he added.

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