SYDNEY  -   The Pakistan Cricket Board has been told Australia won’t be coming to Pakistan this time around, but Cricket Australia insists it is open to the idea of a return in the future.

However the PCB maintains the matter isn’t yet closed, waiting to hear back from CA about a proposal to send a reconnaissance team to Pakistan before making a definitive call not to tour. Australia are scheduled to play five one-day internationals away to Pakistan in March/April, the last ODIs Aaron Finch’s side will play before their World Cup defence begins in England in June.

Australia haven’t played in Pakistan since 1998, however the gradual return of international cricket to the country in recent years had boosted hopes that the Aussies could come back for at least some of this year’s one-dayers.

PCB chairman Ehsan Mani spoke to then-incoming CA chief executive Kevin Roberts during the Aussies’ Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in October, with Mani publicly calling for Australia, England and New Zealand to follow the lead of the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe who have ventured back to Pakistan since 2017.

The return of Sri Lanka was particularly significant given the involvement of their players in the deadly Lahore bus attack of 2009. A handful of Australian players - including current Test captain Tim Paine - also featured in a World XI side that played in Pakistan in 2017. But while CA have indicated a desire to play again in Pakistan, a commitment to tour won’t materialise in the next few months. “We want to see international cricket return to Pakistan – the country has a huge passion for it,” a CA spokesperson said.

“However, the safety of our players and support staff is our number one priority and we won’t compromise that. We’ll continue to take advice from a range of government agencies and our own security intelligence and act on this accordingly.

 “At this stage, from an Australia team perspective, we are not contemplating moving our current bilateral-tour arrangements from taking on Pakistan in the UAE, when they host the next series but we do remain open to the idea of playing in the country again. We formally advised the PCB of this position in early January.”

But the PCB issued a statement to The Age late on Sunday night which indicated that the issue was unresolved from Pakistan’s end.

“The PCB Chairman wrote a letter to the CA Chairman, Mr Earl Eddings, on 7 January in which he had suggested that the CA, as part of a standard protocol and process for bilateral series, should send their recce team to Pakistan to receive presentations on Pakistan’s security arrangements,” the PCB said.

“The PCB is still waiting for a response from the CA. Until the PCB hears further from the CA on their 7 January letter, they will consider this as an open and an ongoing discussion.”

The PCB is yet to reveal the exact dates for the series, and depending on when the matches are scheduled, they could mark the international returns of suspended pair Steve Smith and David Warner, whose 12-month bans for their involvement in the ball tampering scandal expire on March 29.

However there is even greater uncertainty surrounding Smith’s return after his premature departure from the Bangladesh Premier League with an elbow injury. The former Australian captain will undergo surgery on Tuesday and will be in a brace for six weeks. Just when he will actually play again is somewhat of a mystery.

The Pakistan series will follow the Aussies’ white-ball tour of India. Australia play two Twenty20 internationals against India in late February before five ODIs in the first half of March, beginning in Hyderabad on March 2.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s current advice is for Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Pakistan in general, while some regions are complete no-go zones.

Australia have travelled to volatile areas in the not-too-distant past. In 2017, Smith’s side played two Tests in Bangladesh, with players, staff and touring media protected by military guard throughout the visit. Two years earlier Australia had cancelled a planned tour of Bangladesh due to heightened security risks, however CA’s security chief Sean Carroll travelled to the country ahead of the 2017 series and was satisfied that it was OK for Australia to tour.

Finch and Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja both recently said they would be open to play in Pakistan if security boxes were ticked. “Obviously, whatever Cricket Australia tells us, that’ll be the big thing,” Khawaja said. “We’ll leave it to the administrators. They’re pretty good at taking care of us and making sure everything’s safe. I was born in Pakistan so it won’t be too different for me, but it’s still a while away.”