DateLine: 24th October 2008
Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan has warned the standard of his country's cricket side could suffer because of instability which has prompted the cancellation of home international fixtures.
"Not just the Pakistan cricket team, every sport in Pakistan because if it applies to cricket, it applies to every other sport," he told AFP, when asked if the national team could be affected.
Imran, who led Pakistan to their lone World Cup triumph in 1992, also warned that plans for Pakistan to play their home games abroad were "not sustainable".
"Where are they going to play games abroad?" he said, during an interview here Thursday in which he restated his opposition to the Pakistani government's role as a key ally in the US-led "war on terror".
"I think that cricket will keep suffering until things change, the way this whole war is being handled changes," the former all-rounder, who is now chairman of the Pakistan Movement for Justice, said on a visit to London.
He added foreign teams would not be targeted by militants if they came to Pakistan, despite fears which prompted Australia to postpone a tour in March and also saw the multi-national Champions Trophy one-day tournament, due to take place in Pakistan this September, delayed until next year.
Pakistan has been convulsed with violence for months with recent attacks including a suicide bombing at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad last month which killed at least 60 people.
"Terrorists do not target cricketers because cricket is a passion in Pakistan," Imran, 55, said.
"To target cricketers would mean losing the war of hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan so therefore for not one minute do I think cricketers are at risk.
"But I do understand that what they (foreign players) read abroad on the bombings and what they've been told by the embassies and foreign advisories, I can understand their reluctance," added Imran, an Oxford University graduate who played English county cricket for Worcestershire and Susssex as well as spending a season with Australian state side New South Wales.
Imran, an outstanding fast bowler and dangerous middle-order batsman, played 88 Tests for Pakistan from 1971 to 1992, taking 362 wickets at a meagre average of just over 22 apiece, and scoring 3,807 runs at nearly 38 with six hundreds.
(Article: Copyright © 2008 AFP)