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Pakistan keen to allay security fears

June 23, 2008 18:35 IST

Virender Sehwag at Karachi AirportPakistan's ability to host an international tournament without any security problems will be examined when the six-nation Asia Cup begins on Tuesday.

- Dhoni optimistic of team's chances

India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and associate members Hong Kong and United Arab Emirates contest the event with questions remaining over the International Cricket Council's (ICC) decision to award September's Champions trophy to Pakistan.

ICC officials said last week that the Asia Cup would be monitored closely ahead of the eight-team tournament after Australia postponed their planned tour Pakistan in March following a spate of suicide bombings.

"We are well prepared for a tournament of this magnitude," Shafqat Naghmi, a senior Pakistani cricket Board official said.

"The security arrangements in the Asia Cup basically are the same as for the Champions Trophy. We are confident the Asia Cup will go smoothly."

- Team India arrives in Karachi

Pakistan last hosted a multi-team tournament in 1997, a four-team event that was part of its independence celebrations. Since then tours in Pakistan have constantly been affected by teams refusing to tour over security concerns.

As well as Australia's recent postponement, New Zealand returned home from a tour in May 2002 after a bomb blast outside their hotel in Karachi killed 14 people, including nine French naval staff.

DRESS REHEARSAL

Naghmi insisted that conditions in Pakistan were now safe.

"The Asia Cup will prepare us for the Champions trophy as well. It is a good dress rehearsal for us," he added.

Pakistan has scheduled an international seminar and will also host the annual Asian cricket awards during the competition, hoping to highlight to delegates expected from around 22 countries that Pakistan is safe for sporting events.

The Asia Cup, in its ninth edition since launching as a biennial event in 1984, has also been hit by political tensions between Pakistan and India and is being held for the first time since hosts Sri Lanka won the trophy four years ago.

Pakistan, fresh from a tri-series final win over India, face their rivals again as well as Hong Kong in Group B with captain Shoaib Malik confident home advantage will give them an edge.

"Wickets are the same all over the sub continent so that is not an edge for us as hosts but the crowd support we get will definitely boost us and we have a balanced side," Malik said.

Hong Kong skipper, Tabaruk Dar, originally from Pakistan, insisted his side will be competitive.

"We are part time cricketers but we are not here on holidays and we don't want to end up losing embarrassingly to any of the big teams," Dar said.

Group A contains Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and United Arab Emirates with the two top teams from each group qualifying for the super four stage in Karachi from June 28. The final will also be contested in Karachi on July 6.

Photograph: Getty Images | Report: Reuters

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