Door shut on dash for cash
The inevitable postponement of the Pakistan tour after another wave of bombings yesterday that killed at least 20 people in Lahore may prompt Cricket Australia to program a short one-day series which would stop its leading players joining the IPL.
There is now a three-week window between the start of the IPL on April 18 and Australia's tour of the West Indies, which is due to start in the second week of May. However, CA will have little sympathy for players attempting to dash off and grab a slice of the vast wealth that has been flagged for all those who take part in some or all of the six-week tournament.
While the decision to postpone the tour was widely welcomed in Australia and prevented a player revolt if CA had decided to go ahead, Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson said calling off the tour over security fears was disappointing and unjustified.
"I don't think they (Australia) are justified in postponing the series. I am living in Pakistan and feel secure," Lawson said in Karachi yesterday. "I am disappointed, although it was expected. It is a shame that we are not playing Australia at a time when they are beatable."
The tour was due to begin on March 29 and Lahore was one of the venues where Australia was due to play.
"Bombs do go off. You can't argue with that. But they're focused on particular targets that have nothing to do with sport, and particularly nothing to do with cricket," added Lawson who was only 10 minutes away from the blasts which claimed five lives in Lahore last week.
CA chief executive James Sutherland denied the latest wave of suiciding bombs prompted the postponement, claiming the decision had been made last week.
The blasts were the latest in a wave of violence across Pakistan that has left more than 600 people dead this year and presented a serious challenge to an incoming coalition government that won elections in February.
"Ultimately the starting point is to look at the federal Government's advice to Australian travellers to Pakistan and it's not favourable," Sutherland said.
"We've left no stone unturned in trying to ensure that the tour would go ahead as planned. But at the end of the day for us the safety and security of our employees must come first and we were left with no alternative but to arrive at this position."
Chief executive of the Australian Cricketers Association Paul Marsh said the players and their families were relieved by the postponement of the tour.
"We feel for the Pakistani people and players but we have taken extensive independent advice and the players believe this is the right decision.
"We will work with CA in an effort to reschedule the tour."
CA, like most other international boards, regards the IPL as a domestic competition such as county cricket, regardless of the billions the IPL has instantly generated.
As a result, CA will have no qualms programming a clash with the IPL given the players would have been in Pakistan anyway if the tour had been safe.
Sutherland last night said a short one-day series was "not impossible" given the players now had six weeks off.
This was reinforced by CA's general manager of cricket operations Michael Brown, who said a one-day series was "most definitely" a chance depending on how coach Tim Nielsen and his support staff wanted to organise the team for the West Indies. "But then it may not be depending on how we want to prepare ourselves," Brown added.
Nielsen claimed he had already spoken to Brown twice yesterday about the best way to prepare for the West Indies now that Pakistan was off.
He expects Australia's coaching and support staff to meet in Sydney next week during the Pura Cup final to formulate a more detailed strategy.
"Players will have IPL on their minds and there's county cricket but it's a matter of what is the best preparation," Nielsen said.
Even if leading players could play a third of the IPL matches they could make hundreds of thousands of dollars in a couple of weeks on a pro rata basis.
Australia's most sought after player, Andrew Symonds, who was auctioned off for about $1.5million a year, could make $500,000 in a fortnight.
However, it is unlikely that the coaching staff will want their best players involved in a helter skelter entertainment package without CA coaching or medical support in India on the eve of a West Indies tour which contains three Tests, five one-day matches and a Twenty20 game.
At the very least CA will program a training camp at the centre of excellence in Brisbane for the beginning of May before the team leaves later in the second week.
With such a cluttered program and an Ashes tour in the middle of next year, any likelihood of playing in Pakistan before 2010 appears remote.
The ICC Champions Trophy, scheduled for September, is now in grave danger of being moved.
The ICC has already moved an event this year, rescheduling a women's World Cup qualifying event to South Africa.
Australia has not played in Pakistan since 1998, although Australia A toured there without incident in September last year. A scheduled 2002 tour was played in Sri Lanka and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates but the PCB has consistently ruled out neutral venues.