The PCB is mulling Lahore as the new venue, with Rawalpindi-Islamabad set to be the focal point of massive rallies over coming weeks
The tense political climate in Pakistan’s capital could cause the PCB to relocate the white-ball series against Australia out of Rawalpindi, with Lahore likely to be the new venue. With Prime Minister Imran Khan set to face a no-confidence vote, Rawalpindi and its twin city Islamabad are gearing up to become the focal point of political gatherings led by both the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and the opposition-formed Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
PTI has announced it will bring one million people to D Chowk, a square in Islamabad renowned for hosting political rallies, on March 27 “to express solidarity with the prime minister Imran Khan.” The spot is less than 2km from the hotel where the teams are supposed to be staying. PDM has also given a call to its workers and the public to begin a long march towards Islamabad on Pakistan Day – March 23.
As of now, Rawalpindi is scheduled to host three ODIs on March 29, March 31 and April 2, and a one-off T20I on April 5.
The PCB has confirmed it is monitoring the situation and that it has “a contingency plan in place”, which will only be applied if advised by experts. ESPNcricinfo understands the PCB is actively coordinating with the government and will make a final decision in due course.
Australia are in Pakistan for their first tour of the country in 24 years, and are presently playing the second Test in Karachi. They are due to travel to Lahore for the third and final Test, which is scheduled to take place from March 21 to 25. According to the original plan, the teams were scheduled to fly to Rawalpindi on March 26.
A near-full-strength Australia squad landed in Pakistan on February 27, fresh off a 4-0 Ashes victory at home, and has had a largely smooth tour so far. The team, which has been given presidential-level security, decided to stay on in Pakistan after the Peshawar blast on March 4, with interim coach Andrew McDonald saying his team was in “really, really good hands”.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent