Cricket: Pakistan may host Black Caps in NZ

By David Leggat

Pakistan could be playing test cricket in New Zealand next summer and, nominally, as the host nation.

When the terrorist attack on Sri Lanka's cricketers on March 3 shut down the already slim prospects of New Zealand's scheduled tour there at the end of this year, alternatives were considered.

Next week, New Zealand Cricket chief executive Justin Vaughan will meet Pakistani officials in Dubai when he attends an International Cricket Council executive board meeting.

Top of their discussions will be how to ensure the commitment to play Pakistan under the Future Tours Programme can be fulfilled.

And playing two or three tests in New Zealand in November-early December is one possible outcome.

Vaughan pointed out that as hosts Pakistan could nominate a venue for the series, which also included five ODIs.

Australia will play Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and Dubai this month. While in Dubai, Vaughan will check the facilities should Pakistan propose playing New Zealand there for the ODI leg of their series. Vaughan will sound out Australia after their series on how the venues worked.

No tests have been played in the United Arab Emirates. Pitch quality and infrastructure issues are regarded as being behind that, so alternatives will be discussed.

Playing ODIs in the United Arab Emirates, then going to New Zealand to play two or three tests is not ideal, but might be a pragmatic solution. NZC have voiced their support for helping ensure Pakistan remain a major player on the international landscape. Such a plan would fit that bill.

"It is one of the options," Vaughan said last night of New Zealand hosting the tests. "But in the end, this series is Pakistan's home series and to a degree I feel they are in the driver's seat."

International tours usually involved the hosts picking up the tab for the visiting party and keeping thecommercial revenue.

Vaughan said Pakistan playing "home" tests in New Zealand would require some financial fine tuning, but it was not seen necessarily as a dealbreaker.

Pakistan yesterday flagged Ireland, Scotland, England and Malaysia as countries which have offered to allow it to host test and ODI matches there. The Northern Hemisphere options are out of the question in November-December. Malaysia, which hosted the world under-19 championship last year, is a possibility.

There are some curly issues to resolve, however, if Pakistan agrees to play tests in New Zealand.

They are due in Melbourne for the Boxing Day test against Australia and two more after that. Therefore they would need to be in New Zealand by about November 20, to squeeze in one warmup match and three tests.

Finding suitable venues at that time of the season for tests will be tricky. However, if it was able to be managed, it would certainly enhance New Zealand's test summer.

There is no home international cricket until February, when lightweights Bangladesh arrive for two tests and three ODIs.

Australia, the big ticket item, play three tests and five Chappell-Hadlee Trophy ODIs in late February-March.

- NZ Herald

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