Cricket South Africa have decided that the South African team won’t travel to Pakistan to take part in the Champions Trophy next month. The tournament is scheduled to start on September 12th.
This years Champions Trophy, which takes place every two years and features all Test playing teams, has been hit with talk of rescheduling, changing the host country, and teams unsure of whether they will take part, due to safety and security fears in Pakistan.
There was talk of switching the competition to Sri Lanka or South Africa, but the ICC decided to go ahead with Pakistan as host, saying that they were happy with the safety and security arrangements in Pakistan, but that the start had been switched from the 11th to the 12th and that Rawalpindi would most likely not stage any games. Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi were to stage the games, but the reshaping would see two cities host matches. Rawalpindi has seen several violent attacks in the past year, including the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Australia, England and New Zealand have all been cautious about traveling to Pakistan, while the West Indies have had a wait and see approach. But South Africa have become the first country to officially pull out. CSA have said that they urge to ICC to reschedule as soon as possible, and that they respect the Pakistan cricket boards right to stage the trophy. What was not clear is whether the urge to reschedule as soon as possible means a change of date, or a change of country. Either way the Pakistan and Indian boards have suggested that if the ICC decided to move the tournament elsewhere, they would pull out.
With the ICC meeting on Sunday via teleconference to discuss the Champions Trophy it is perhaps a bit odd that South Africa have made their intentions before the outcome of that meeting. If they decided at the meeting to change the venue South Africa would not have been in this position, where relations with Pakistan, and maybe India, may be affected. Unless CSA are attempting to force the issue, which would be a fool hardy approach since Pakistan have the Indian board behind them.
While the fans in Pakistan and South Africa will be disappointed it must be remembered that safety does come first and CSA and the players felt that the current situation in Pakistan could not guaranteetheir safety and while this must be understood, no risks should be taken with lives, I can’t but feel that they should have waited until after the ICC meeting on Sunday to announce their withdrawal.
With South Africa pulling out we can now probably expect Australia, England and New Zealand, and maybe the West Indies to follow suit. The coming days will not be good for world cricket.