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Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt believes the country is once again a "safe place" for international teams to tour.

Sri Lanka have turned down a PCB invitation to tour Pakistan in October, citing security reasons.

Speaking ahead of a three-match, one-day series between Pakistan's A team and Afghanistan, Butt said: "We want to send a message to the world that Pakistan is a safe place to play cricket and the people of Pakistan would welcome any team coming here.

"I take this opportunity to thank the Afghanistan Government and Afghanistan Cricket Board for sending their team.

"I hope this tour will pave the way for more such visits by foreign teams to Pakistan."

Pakistan has not hosted international cricket within its own borders - the nation was stripped of its status as 2011 World Cup co-hosts - since an attack on Sri Lanka's team bus in Lahore left seven players and an assistant coach injured in 2009.

Six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed in the attack, which occurred when gunmen ambushed the bus and opened fire.

The PCB had hoped to welcome Sri Lanka back for a tour in October, proposing a series comprising three Tests, five ODIs and one Twenty20 match.

However, an attack at a Karachi naval base on Sunday prompted Sri Lanka Cricket to put the safety of its players first, deciding to reject the offer despite the PCB's security assurances.

Since the 2009 attack, Pakistan have been forced to play their home series on neutral territory, including the United Arab Emirates, England and New Zealand, with no cricketing nation willing to tour the troubled country.

Butt reckons Afghanistan's tour is a positive step.

He added: "The visit of Afghanistan cricket team is also a good sign for the game of cricket in Pakistan.

"Unfortunately, our cricket frenzy nation is being deprived of international cricket at home.

"Capacity-filled stadiums in domestic tournaments reflect how dear this game is for them.

"PCB, in this difficult time, has tried to keep the momentum rolling by concentrating more on domestic cricket and creating opportunities for the national team to play their home series at alternative venues.

"For the Afghanistan team tour, PCB has tried to ensure highest-level security and I thank the Government of Pakistan for providing that."
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