CANBERRA: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he’s not inclined to intervene to stop the Australian cricket team’s planned tour of Pakistan. The Australians are scheduled to play matches in Pakistan in March, but some have called for the tour to be cancelled due to the unstable political situation and recent bombings.
During a brief appearance on ABC Radio’s coverage of the first Test against India today, Mr Rudd said cricket was a diplomatic tool that could be used to improve relations between countries.
While acknowledging the potential dangers in Pakistan, the Prime Minister was reluctant to interfere in the decisions of Cricket Australia. “I think we’ll sort that all out with Cricket Australia as the time approaches,” Mr Rudd said. “It’s always hard, it’s always difficult, but (cricket) is a great international game, it’s a great language of international diplomacy.
“I was just having a cup of tea before with the Indian high commissioner about this (cricket) being so much the lifeblood of the Australia-India relationship. “If we can somehow build on the bonds that exist out of this game and take it to the next level that would be a lot better than the reverse.”
However, Mr Rudd acknowledged the internal security situation in Pakistan was increasingly “vexed” after recent bomb blasts. “Security … is the foremost concern which many of us have for the Australian team abroad and Pakistan’s got some challenges, real challenges, at the moment,” he said.
Despite his love for cricket, Mr Rudd admitted to being just as hopeless at actually playing the game as his predecessor, John Howard. Mr Rudd was a sometime wicketkeeper in his younger days and played cricket for the Australian embassy team in Beijing when he was posted there.
But he wasn’t about to gloat about his performance with the gloves when asked today. “I think Mr Howard did for spin bowling what I did for wicketkeeping – which was not a lot in both cases,” Mr Rudd said. It was a reference to Mr Howard’s famously disastrous attempt at bowling off-breaks for the cameras several years ago.
Earlier, Mr Rudd told the Nine Network he had seen his first Test match during the 1974-75 season and vividly recalled the performance of pace bowlers Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee. “I’d just finished high school and I remember jumping the train from Nambour down to Brisbane to the Gabba,” he said. “It was the first Test match I’d ever been to, I think I was 17. “Watching the whole day, Thomson and Lillee, was just riveting as a kid.”-SANA