In what is seen as a big blow to Pakistan's bid to show the world that it was capable of providing a safe and secure environment for international sports, New Zealand’s first cricket tour to the country in 18 years was abandoned Friday following a “government security alert”
In what is seen as a big blow to Pakistan's bid to show the world that it was capable of providing a safe and secure environment for international sports, New Zealand’s first cricket tour to the country in 18 years was abandoned Friday following a “government security alert”. New Zealand Cricket – the country’s governing body of the game - confirmed the tour had been called off, just as the first one-day international was set to get underway in Rawalpindi on Friday.
"Following an escalation in the New Zealand government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisers on the ground, it has been decided the Black Caps will not continue with the tour," the NZC statement said, adding that arrangements were being made for the team's departure.
But, the board said it would not comment on the details of the security threat nor the updated arrangements for the departing squad.
Security consultant Reg Dickason, who had arrived in Pakistan well before the tour, was accompanying the side.
In a statement, the Pakistan Cricket Board said that New Zealand Cricket (NZC) informed the board they had been alerted to "some security alert" and unilaterally decided to postpone the series.
Both teams were absent from Pindi Cricket Stadium for the scheduled coin toss, with the jittery New Zealanders told to stay in their rooms.
NZC chief executive David White said it was simply not possible to continue with the tour given the advice he was receiving.
“I understand this will be a blow for the PCB, who have been wonderful hosts, but player safety is paramount and we believe this is the only responsible option.”
New Zealand Cricket Players Association chief executive Heath Mills said the players were safe, according to the Kiwi website Stuff.
The PCB statement said Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke personally to her New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern and informed her that his country had “one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team”.
“Pakistan Cricket Board and Pakistan Government made foolproof security arrangements for all visiting teams. We have assured the New Zealand Cricket of the same,” the PCB said, claiming the security officials with the touring side had been “satisfied with security arrangements made by the Pakistan Government throughout their stay here”.
The PCB said it was willing to continue the scheduled matches.
“However, cricket lovers in Pakistan and around the world will be disappointed by this last-minute withdrawal.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she supported New Zealand Cricket's decision to pull out of the tour.
"When I spoke with the Prime Minister of Pakistan I conveyed our thanks for taking care of the New Zealand Cricket team," Ardern said in a statement sent to Reuters.
"I know how disappointing it will be for everyone that the game hasn’t gone ahead, but we totally support the decision that’s been made. Player safety has to be paramount.”
Pakistan captain Babar Azam articulated the host nation’s sadness on Twitter. “Extremely disappointed on the abrupt postponement of the series, which could have brought the smiles back for millions of Pakistan Cricket Fans. I've full trust in the capabilities and credibility of our security agencies,” he wrote.
A second-string New Zealand team under the captaincy of Tom Latham arrived in Pakistan a week ago for their first tour since 2003, when Chris Cairns led an under-strength team to a 5-0 ODI series defeat. Pakistan has hosted no international cricket since 2009 when Sri Lanka’s team bus was attacked on the way to a match at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium.
The New Zealand team, which trained in Rawalpindi under Pakistan government-approved security with armored buses and armed soldiers, were set to play three ODIs and five Twenty20 International matches till October 1.
With World Cup-winning cricketer Imran Khan at the helm of government, a lot was at stake for Pakistan from a security viewpoint concerning the tour. A smooth tour would have not only gone a long way in ensuring the return of regular international cricket to Pakistan but also showcase to the world the improved security situation in the country.
Pakistan fans have had to be largely satisfied with off-shore cricket for their national team over the past 12 years when the PCB was forced to host international matches in the United Arab Emirates after the 2009 incident.
In 2001, New Zealand postponed its trip to Pakistan in the aftermath of the September 11 US terror strike.
Terrorists had struck Pakistan thrice in the last 12 days in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover in neighboring Afghanistan. On September 15, seven soldiers were killed in North Waziristan. On Sept. 13, an attack killed a soldier in South Waziristan. And three troops were killed in the southwestern city of Quetta on Sept. 5. The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has claimed responsibility for all three attacks.