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KARACHI: Pakistan could face a lengthy break from international arena after June onwards if the scheduled tour of Zimbabwe in August fails to materialise owing to serious financial crisis within that country’s cricket board, it emerged on Tuesday.

According to well-placed sources in the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the national team is slated to play a full series of two Tests, three One-day Internationals and two Twenty20 Internationals against Zimbabwe under the Future Tour Programme, drawn by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in January 2017.

Faisal Hasnain, the ex-ICC chief financial officer who is now Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC)’s managing director, visited Lahore recently and received support from the top PCB officials who indicated they would go with whatever decision the Zimbabwe cricket authorities take.

The crux of the situation that Zimbabwe are short of money to host Pakistan since they don’t get much from the TV deal because production costs of covering the series result in massive losses.

“Given our current cash situation, in order to balance our books, we may actually have to either renegotiate the format or we may have to postpone it [Pakistan series] until such time as we are ready to play,” Faisal was quoted say saying by the ESPNcricinfo on Tuesday.

Australia are also due to visit Zimbabwe under the FTP schedule prior to the Pakistan tour for a one-off Test and three One-day Internationals but that series is also under threat since ZC have been in negotiations to arrange a limited-overs tri-series with Australia and Pakistan in June, but the status of it is also in doubt at the moment.

“We are looking at all of that to see whether we have the tri-series only, the Pakistan series only, or we change the format,” Faisal said. “We are just working through, considering our options at the moment.”

ZC have been in real strife for some years now and recently they were forced to postpone the domestic competition because they were finding it difficulties in even paying salaries to their staff and players.

But Pakistan have in general stood by Zimbabwe and supported them by playing more international fixtures in the African nation since the beginning of 2011. In this period, Pakistan have toured there thrice, including two all-format visits and once for a limited-overs series.

ZC will make the final decision over the next two to three weeks or even after that because they will be occupied with the staging of the all-important ICC World Cup qualifiers that run from March 4 to 25 — a tournament from which two teams would join the eight already qualified nations at next year’s 50-over mega event in England.

A top PCB official confided to Dawn on condition of anonymity that the tour remains in limbo due to the issues faced by ZC.

“At this point in time it would be unwise to give a definite answer whether the tour is on or otherwise because we are monitoring the situation confronting Zimbabwe Cricket,” he said on Tuesday.

“Faisal Hasnain was in Lahore sometime back to apprise us of the serious problems faced by his board while indicating that the series is in jeopardy. But nothing is concrete yet.”

After the third edition of Pakistan Super League concludes on March 25, the national side is scheduled to host West Indies for a short T20 series before touring Ireland, England and Scotland in the summer. After playing in Ireland’s inaugural Test in Malahide near Dublin from May 11 to 15, Pakistan meet England in two Tests (Lord’s , May 24-28) and Headingley (June 1 to 5) and then travel to Edinburgh to face Scotland in two Twenty20 Interna­tionals (June 12 and 13).

Under the FTP schedule, Pakistan host Australia in October for five ODIs and one T20 and then New Zealand for three Tests, five ODIs and one T20 in Nov/Dec before touring South Africa in December for three Tests, five ODIs and three T20 fixtures. Pakistan will host Australia for a second time in March for three Tests.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2018

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