Australian diplomat hopes to bring cricketers to Pakistan

KARACHI: Canberra´s top diplomat in Pakistan has said he hoped to bring some Australian players to the country to help revive international cricket five years after militants attacked a visiting team.

Pakistan has been forced to play its home fixtures on neutral soil since a 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team, which killed eight people and injured seven visiting players.

Talks with associate team Ireland for a short series in September were put on hold after the Taliban carried out a brazen raid of Karachi airport earlier this month, killing dozens and shocking the country.

Peter Heyward, Australia´s High Commissioner, said confidence could be restored if foreign cricketers visited Pakistan though he did not elaborate on what form the visit might take or which players would be involved. “Rest assured, whenever I go to Australia I meet Cricket Australia and they say they can´t send the team until it´s safe. I understand it completely,” Heyward said at a ceremony late Saturday. But, he added: “I hope to bring some cricketers next year (to Pakistan) to show them the situation and try to make a positive impact. We all are waiting for cricket to return to Pakistan and the Australian team would love to play here because the crowd is so knowledgeable,” he added.

Even before the attacks on the Sri Lankan team, players´ safety had been an issue in Pakistan, which has faced a homegrown Islamist insurgency since joining hands with the United States after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998 over security fears. They were due to tour in October 2002 but the series was played in Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates after a suicide bombing outside the hotel of the New Zealand team forced them to cut short their tour in May that year.

Heyward said he hoped the two countries could use cricket to strengthen their ties. “Cricket is one of the issues which unite Pakistan and Australia and I hope Pakistan and Australia meet in the final of the World Cup,” he said.

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