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Pakistan's World Cup hopes under threat
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Pakistan cricket is facing a bleak future, with visiting teams certain to boycott tours to the troubled nation for the foreseeable future in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attack in Lahore. As international cricket pondered the ramifications, it became almost certain that Pakistan would be stripped of its status as the co-host of the 2011 World Cup.

Asked about plans for the World Cup, ICC president David Morgan was blunt in his assessment. "Things will have to change dramatically in Pakistan, in my opinion, if any of the games are to be staged there."

The chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, was less blunt but the message was the same. "It is pretty, pretty serious and it is very obvious that the landscape and the thinking has changed dramatically," Lorgat told Cricinfo. "We are going to have to reevaluate what we do and where Pakistan plays its cricket."

Those views were echoed by Sharad Pawar, the ICC vice president and former head of the Indian cricket board, a close ally of the Pakistan Cricket Board. India had been forced to abandon their tour of Pakistan in January following a government directive after the attacks on Mumbai.

Visting teams have experienced brushes with terrorism in the past but only now, with the Sri Lankans directly targeted by militants, is Pakistan faced with a blanket boycott. Even those who urged international teams not to abandon Pakistan have now accepted the inevitable.

Wasim Akram, the former Pakistan captain, said Pakistan hosting the World Cup in 2011 was now a "distant dream".

"How do you expect a foreign team to come to Pakistan now? We took pride in hosting our guests," Akram told ESPN Star. "This image has taken a beating. It's sad for Pakistan."

Waqar Younis, Akram's bowling partner, said the chances of foreign teams coming to Pakistan were now remote. "We have to agree with whatever the ICC decides," he said.

Ramiz Raja, another prominent voice in Pakistan, said he had never thought there would be a situation where sportspersons would be targeted in Pakistan.

The series against Sri Lanka was cancelled immediately after Tuesday's attacks, and similar announcements regarding other tours are expected in the coming months.

Australia, India, New Zealand and the West Indies are among the teams to have postponed or cancelled tours to Pakistan in recent years, and New Zealand will almost certainly call off their scheduled series there in November. The Black Caps experienced first-hand the dangers of touring Pakistan in 2002, when a bomb exploded outside their Karachi hotel, and NZC chief executive Justin Vaughan hinted strongly that the team would not return in the near future.

"It's very frightening that for the first time a cricket team appears to be the specific target of terrorist action," Vaughan told NZPA. "That's never happened before - all previous incidents have been about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a very different proposition and I think just a very frightening one for world cricket. You'd have to say this would throw further doubt over that tour but we don't make those decisions off the cuff like that. This is really serious."

Reg Dickason, the security consultant contracted by the ECB and CA, said he had long feared that terrorists in Pakistan would target cricketers. "A lot of the concerns we raised during the Champions Trophy have unfortunately come home to roost," Dickason said. "The notion of sporting teams being a protected species was held by many, but it was not a view that we shared, unfortunately.

"There were a number of factors we considered, including the global exposure an attack on an international sporting team could have. (Tours of Pakistan) are highly unlikely for the forseeable future given the present environment. How could you go there now? The Australians were supposed to have played there in March. This, unfortunately, is the realisation of many of the things we thought, and it is a terrible way to find out."

Geoff Lawson, who served as Pakistan coach until last October, feared the team would suffer from being cast into a nomadic existence. "Cricket won't be played in Pakistan for the foreseeable future," Lawson said. "Pakistan look like they will become a wandering cricket team now. They will be playing at neutral venues, because you can guarantee that there won't be games there [at home]. Obviously, there is no chance of the Champions Trophy or the World Cup going ahead there."

In a small vote of confidence, Cricket Australia confirmed its intention to proceed with an ODI series against Pakistan which, due to security concerns, had already been shifted to the United Arab Emirates.

"We do not expect this to affect the series (in the UAE)," CA spokesman Peter Young said. "We are due to complete a security inspection tour at the end of the week, and that is expected to go ahead as planned."

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