Kevin Roberts, the Cricket Australia chief executive, remains cautious about the prospect of Australia resuming tours to Pakistan but said “things are heading in the right direction” following a brief visit to the country this week.
Australia haven’t played in Pakistan since 1998 (although current Test captain Tim Paine was part of the World XI which travelled for T20Is in 2017) and are not scheduled to visit again until 2022 as per the Future Tours Programme.
ESPNcricinfo reported in May that Roberts’ trip – the first by a CA chief executive in more than ten years – was due to take place and he said he was keen to visit the country well ahead of Australia’s next potential tour but reiterated that CA would never take any risks with the safety of their players and staff. Roberts visited Islamabad where he met with the PCB and Ministry of Interior officials to be briefed on the latest security situation.
“Things are heading in the right direction, but in saying that we were travelling in armoured cars and escorted by police and felt very safe. Certainly, that level of security is still required,” he told SEN radio.
“I hope we do [go back], for the sake of world cricket and Australia’s important relationship with Pakistan. As I said to Pakistan, we share their desire to see international return, [but] we’ll never jeopardise the safety of our people and will continue to take advice from experts on the way.
“We’ve got the next couple of years to hopefully plan for a tour in 2022 but we have to set that out carefully rather than rushing into it.”
Roberts was accompanied on the trip by CA’s head of integrity and security Sean Carroll and he will now put together a report on the visit with proposals of what has to happen next to give the 2022 tour a chance of taking place in Pakistan.
“It’s really good that’s the cricket world is opening its hearts and minds to the role of Pakistan and looking proactively and what it will take to return international cricket,” Roberts said. “There are parts of the country that are unfortunately very unsafe but there are parts where I think a number of countries would contemplate playing in the future when Pakistan are ready.”
Pakistan did not host international cricket for six years after the terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009. Zimbabwe were the first country to return in 2015 since when Bangladesh women, a World XI, Sri Lanka and both West Indies’ men and women have made brief trips.
The most significant tour since 2009 is due to start later this month when Sri Lanka visit for three ODIs and three T20Is – split between Karachi and Lahore – although a host of their leading names have made themselves unavailable for the trip. CA chairman Earl Eddings is due to attend one of the T20Is in early October.
With inputs from Umar Farooq