In what is seen as a litmus test of Pakistan's ability to provide a safe and secure environment for international sports, a New Zealand cricket team has arrived in Islamabad after a 18-year hiatus and will play One-Day International and Twenty20 games amidst a promise of “extraordinary” security
In what is seen as a litmus test of Pakistan's ability to provide a safe and secure environment for international sports, a New Zealand cricket team has arrived in Islamabad after a 18-year hiatus and will play One-Day International and Twenty20 games amidst a promise of “extraordinary” security. Pakistan fans have had to be largely satisfied with off-hore cricket for their national team over the past 12 years, following a deadly terror strike on the Sri Lankan team bus on way to Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium in 2009.
In fact, one of the injured Sri Lankan cricketers in the March 3, 2009, attack - Thilan Samaraweera – has returned to Pakistan as a member of the New Zealand side’s coaching staff.
With World Cup-winning cricketer Imran Khan now the country’s Prime Minister, a lot is at stake for Pakistan which was forced to host international matches in the United Arab Emirates after the 2009 incident.
A peaceful, safe and smooth tour will not only go 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 that Islamabad claims.
Interestingly, all the matches of the touring team are to be played in Punjab province, which means the Kiwis would be traveling only between Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore, though the last-named city did witness a bomb blast in June that left three dead and 24 injured.
As per the tour schedule, the Pakistan-New Zealand ODI series will be played at the Rawalpindi Stadium, with matches scheduled for Sept 17, 19, and 21. The Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, will host five T20Is between September 25 and October 3.
That signifies the Kiwis would be skipping international venues like Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar and Hyderabad located in the three other provinces, which have often been restive. It may be mentioned that the team’s tour to Pakistan had abruptly ended in 2002 after a bomb blast outside the team hotel in Karachi on the morning of the second Test.
According to Dawn, Pakistan’s federal cabinet has approved the security plan for the New Zealand tour last week, with Information and Broadcasting minister Fawad Chaudhry promising “extraordinary” security for the Kiwis and their coaching staff.
Ahead of the tour, some players sought reassurance due to the volatile situation in neighboring Afghanistan, but New Zealand Cricket (NZC), the country’s apex body for the game, and the NZ Cricket Players’ Association (NZCPA) gave the go-ahead based on security consultant Reg Dickason’s report from Pakistan, reported the website Stuff. Dickason, a former Aussie cop, is also accompanying the team.
“The security risk assessments are completed every day and the level of resource and the rollout of the security plan is assessed every day,” said NZCPA boss Heath Mills.
The team, led by stand-in skipper Tom Latham, comprising second-stringers, went down to Bangladesh – from where they have come to Pakistan - 2-3 in a T20 series.
NZC has released eight of the country’s top players, including captain Kane Williamson, for the rescheduled Indian Premier League in the UAE, that precedes the T20 World Cup there.
In 2001, New Zealand postponed its trip to Pakistan in the aftermath of the September 11 US terror strike. After the midway termination of the 2002 trip, the Kiwis did come back next year with a second-string side following injuries and unavailabilities and lost the ODI series 0-5.