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Friday, December 17, 2010

Cricket: New cloud shadows Pakistan on eve of tour

NZC is still hopeful of good crowds despite the latest scandal. Photo / APNew Zealand Cricket remains optimistic of a high level of interest in Pakistan's tour starting next week despite yesterday's revelations of three more players being placed under match-fixing scrutiny.
Pakistan's board has told the three unnamed players to submit details of their assets and accounts.
This follows three senior players, former captain Salman Butt, and new ball kingpins Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, being suspended by the International Cricket Council while allegations of spot fixing in tests against England this year are investigated.
Pakistan's ODI squad to play six games against New Zealand in January-February has been delayed in part while the latest trio are investigated.
However NZC's commercial manager Peter Dwan remains "reasonably optimistic" that the tour will attract plenty of interest.
The tour comprises three T20 internationals, starting on Boxing Day at Eden Park, two tests and the ODI series to finish."We can't change what is happening [the spot fixing allegations]," Dwan said last night. "All we can do is go to the market with a product we think is very compelling - a highly entertaining series of T20, then a good test series followed by ODIs of our national team against very good sportsmen who are successful on the pitch."
Pakistan's ODI squad and preliminary group for the February-March World Cup on the subcontinent cannot be named until receiving a clearance from that country's board's integrity committee.
Dwan said one consideration in terms of possible crowd sizes was the walkup factor, and he said particularly in Auckland and Wellington that number had been as high as 8000-10,000 on match days.
The Boxing Day game has been compared with about five other December 26 fixtures against a range of teams, including the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Dwan said it was tracking second at this stage in comparative terms for anticipated spectator interest.
At the time of the initial allegations on Pakistan's tour of England in the middle of the year, NZC did a survey of "cricket-interested" people asking if the allegations would affect their intention to watch Pakistan.
"About 75-80 per cent said no, they were still going," Dwan said.
The type of fans attracted to the various international forms vary, ranging from purists with a deep knowledge of and passion for the game to what Dwan called "cricket-tolerant event-goers".
"T20 is a sport entertainment product and the biggest reason for people going is to see dynamic action, and the Pakistan team for the T20 is really strong.
"At the other end, with tests, we may find people who will go 'I don't particularly want to watch that team because I'm not sure about their setup and the way they play'."
The other perspective will be in watching how New Zealand get out of their present rut in their only home international series. That should pique interest.
"A lot of the public are disappointed with the way the New Zealand team has played over the last few months but also remember in August they were ranked No 2 in the world [in ODIs]," Dwan said. "Those guys have to win back a lot of support by performance, but there's a strong degree of it for them from within New Zealand, no matter who they're playing."
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