Cricket Australia will push ahead with the first tour of Pakistan in 24 years, with chief executive Nick Hockley insistent he wants the trip in March to go ahead.
The Pakistan Cricket Board moved one step closer to hosting Australia’s men’s side on Monday, with the two boards agreeing to a tour schedule.
Australia are slated to play Tests in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore in March, as well as three ODIs and a Twenty20 match.
Australia have not played in Pakistan since Mark Taylor hit an unbeaten 334 in Peshawar in 1998, with security concerns meaning all tours since have been played in the UAE.
International cricket returned to the country in recent years for the first time since the 2009 bombing of the Sri Lanka team bus, but New Zealand’s withdrawal from a tour in September had clouded that.
At the time New Zealand Cricket claimed it had seen a “specific and credible threat against the team” on the morning of the first ODI.
England also withdrew from a subsequent tour, bringing into serious question Australia’s trip to the country at the start of next year.
But Australia are adamant they want to tour, in the biggest step towards a return to the country since former chief executiveKevin Roberts’ visit there in 2019.
“We will work over the next three months, we’re going to be doing a (reconnaissance) over to Pakistan,” Hockley told AAP.
“We will be working with all the relevant agencies to do our due diligence to make sure security programs are in place.
“As is the case with any tour, the tour remains subject to all of those plans being in place.
“But certainly, there is really strong intent to want to go. International touring has resumed there.
“But as we always do, we will put the safety and wellbeing of players and staff as No.1 priority.”
The matches will also mark Australia’s first Tests overseas since the Ashes in 2019, with tours of South Africa and Bangladesh postponed due to COVID-19.
The news comes ahead of Australia’s semi-final clash with Pakistan in the Twenty20 World Cup, in the biggest game between the two teams in more than a decade.
Hockley and new interim CA chairman Richard Freudenstein will travel to Dubai on Tuesday night for high-powered ICC meetings to finish the tournament.
The tour of Pakistan will no doubt be front and centre in some talks, with former PCB chief executive Wasim Khan critical of Australia’s decision not to play ODIs there in 2019.
Australia would also be expected to speak to New Zealand officials about their withdrawal.
“We are in regular contact with all the other member countries,” Hockley said.
“We’re all working to make sure international cricket can continue and can thrive. We’ll work over the next three months.
“The work over the next three months is to satisfy ourselves to make sure all the plans are in place to make sure everyone is safe.”