Melbourne, Sep 22 (UNI) With the shocking news of one of the biggest terrorist attacks in Pakistan's history on Saturday, Australian skipper Ricky Ponting said the expert security advice his team received halted what could have been a disastrous tour of the strife-torn nation.
A suicide bomber detonated a truck packed with explosives, killing about 60 people and injuring 200, at the Marriott Hotel, a popular gathering place for politicians, foreigners and the Pakistan elite in Islamabad.
The Marriott could also have housed some of the world's best cricketers had the Champions Trophy tournament gone ahead.
Last night, before Ponting and his players flew to India for the start of their tour, the captain said at the press conference what is happening in Pakistan is an ''absolute shame''.
''It's devastating for the people involved in Pakistan,'' he said. ''I mean, we'd be talking hypothetically, if us being in the hotel or England or South Africa being in the hotel-- I think what we've done, and what we've done right the way through, is that we just have to listen to the advice from the experts and our Department of Foreign Affairs.
Security advice right the way through has been that they have not been happy for us to tour Pakistan, so obviously nothing has changed right now.
''It is an absolute shame that things like this continue to happen in Pakistan, because, believe it or not, as players you want to travel all around the world and play in all the conditions around the world, but unfortunately right at this moment there's no way we could be touring Pakistan.'' Australia were due to play in Pakistan this week but the Champions Trophy was postponed after several countries, including Australia and South Africa, refused to travel there. The tournament was to have begun on September 12 and to have finished next weekend.
Ponting said his biggest personal challenge on this Indian tour was leaving behind his wife, Rhianna, and seven-week-old daughter Emmy.
''If you take Pakistan out of it and what's happened there in the last 24 hours, just walking out of the car and shutting the door was really one of the hardest things I had to do, to tell you the truth,'' Ponting said. ''I guess I've been lucky to have those last five or six weeks at home with my daughter.'' Australia decided to go ahead with their tour of India despite this month's bomb blasts in New Delhi that killed 23 people.
They will be given regular security updates during the tour of India, Ponting said.
''It's vital with me, as captain, that the players be kept in the loop,'' Ponting said.
Andrew Symonds is a notable absentee from the team. Ponting said while there had been ''positive signs'' from the talented cricketer, there would be no way that Symonds would be called up.
Symonds was dropped after choosing to go fishing over attending a team meeting.
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