The ICC has sought to clarify remarks made by Haroon Lorgat, its chief executive, which have been construed as casting doubts on the viability of Pakistan as an international venue. Lorgat said the ICC would conduct an independent security assessment of the country before appointing officials for Sri Lanka's tour next month but ICC officials say the inspection was in the pipeline and is not directly related to the tour.
"We will do an independent assessment of the situation in Pakistan to ensure the safety of the umpires and match referee," Lorgat said in Mohali during the second Test between India and England. "I am convinced the Sri Lankan board will also do everything to ascertain whether it is safe to play in Pakistan and also seek assurances from the Pakistan Cricket Board."
The Pakistan board was caught off-guard by the comments, which suggested that ICC security assessments would precede even bilateral contests in Pakistan. This would be a break from past practice; for instance this year, when Australia pulled out of a tour to Pakistan over security concerns, the ICC hadn't spoken of an independent security assessment for its own officials. When England returned to India after the Mumbai attacks, the BCCI's security arrangements satisfied Reg Dickason, the security consultant for the ECB, and also the ICC.
Lorgat, it is learned, later called Zakir Khan, PCB director cricket operations, and explained that the comments had been taken out of context and that there had been nothing alarming about what he had said. "We received a call from Lorgat and he explained what he had meant by his comments," an official told Cricinfo. "He explained that there was nothing alarmist in what he said and we are satisfied with that. As far as we are concerned it is a non-issue."
ICC officials later released a statement clarifying precisely what Lorgat's remarks conveyed; in it they explained that such an assessment had been planned in any case, as part of an ongoing assessment towards the ICC Champions Trophy, scheduled to be held in Pakistan in 2009.
"Security would have to be assessed on an ongoing basis anyway as we move towards the ICC Champions Trophy. We would have done that during the Pakistan-India tour had it taken place," the statement read, referring to India's withdrawal from the tour after the Indian government refused permission for the team to visit Pakistan. After the Champions Trophy was postponed in September 2008, the ICC had said that a security review would take place after India's tour to Pakistan, which would then form the basis of further assessment before the 2009 tournament was confirmed.
But the ICC also reiterated Lorgat's stance, that safety issues for officials and spectators were as important as those for the players. "The issue is that safety and security is not simply a matter for players; it's also a matter for everyone else - broadcasters, journalists and match officials too, as well as spectators. From the ICC's perspective, what would be required is that the match officials are afforded the same level of security as any or everyone else involved in the series."
The statement also raised the issue of umpires willing to tour. "Just like with players, officials have choices about whether or not they wish to attend a tour and are also likely to be guided by the views of their own governments. [However] the ICC has a significant number of officials and would certainly expect to be able to identify enough of them to stand in the tour."
Sri Lanka agreed to tour Pakistan after India's withdrawal for what will now be a series of three Tests and five ODIs.