Mark Richardson: Pakistan is simply not safe to tour

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If Pakistan is to host the ICC Champions Trophy, then a three-match, one-day international series between New Zealand and Pakistan in Pakistan just prior to the tournament makes perfect sense - except for the fact that Pakistan should not be hosting the Champions Trophy and New Zealand should not tour there right now.

Pakistan is not safe. The political environment is particularly unstable and touring is not a good idea. In fairness, it is not Afghanistan and the violence is not intentionally directed at Westerners. But I do not believe those committing acts of terrorism would be overly bothered if some high-profile Westerners were to stumble into the firing line.

In 2002, had the Black Caps' bus left five minutes earlier from the hotel enroute to the Karachi stadium, there most probably would have been lives lost from the touring team.

There is an unacceptable safety risk associated with a tour of Pakistan and no matter how much security you place around the team, you simply cannot guarantee safety. Sure, you can come to harm at the hands of terrorists in "safe" countries like England just as you could fall prey to a shark in New Zealand. But, if you wade into the water with open wounds in Cape Town, you're more likely to come to grief.

The Black Caps have not had the best of luck when it comes to bombs.

Twice in Sri Lanka and once in Pakistan, tours have been affected by a blast and it's understandable that our administration and some senior players might feel gun-shy about returning. It's also ironic that the ICC should name Sri Lanka as reserve for the Champions Trophy, but the political environment there is not quite like it was in the early 1990s. In my opinion, during those political days of turmoil, Sri Lanka should have been off limits.

The ICC will not take the tournament off Pakistan; they simply lack the teeth to do so and New Zealand Cricket is unlikely to be bold enough to refuse the proposed three-game tour of Pakistan.

What will happen will be the same old story. The decision to tour will be left in the hands of the individual. This is unfair. Players who opt out will be at a disadvantage even if NZC says it will not be held against them in future selections. Simply, if a replacement performs, the player who gave up that spot is at risk.

Then there is the player who is already at risk, who feels uncomfortable about the safety environment but who knows he must go or risk jeopardising his cricket career.

There is also a negative spin-off for cricket in New Zealand in general. Six months after the Pakistan test tour in 2002, a recovery tour of five one-day internationals was played. This team was full of substandard replacements and got smashed 5-0 - that does nobody any good.

The right thing for New Zealand Cricket to do is to act on behalf of its players and make the decision for them or, even better, for the ICC to act on behalf of world cricket and grow some courage.

- Herald on Sunday

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