New Zealand abandon Pakistan tour after security alert

18 September 2021 - 10:18 By Reuters
Pakistan captain Babar Azam bats on the tour of South Africa this year. Azam tweeted he was 'extremely disappointed' at New Zealand cancelling their tour of Pakistan.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam bats on the tour of South Africa this year. Azam tweeted he was 'extremely disappointed' at New Zealand cancelling their tour of Pakistan.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

New Zealand abruptly abandoned their tour of Pakistan on Friday citing a security alert in a huge blow to the South Asian country’s hopes of staging regular international cricket.

The tour was to get under way with the first of the three one-dayers in Rawalpindi on Friday but New Zealand did not travel to the stadium.

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) then issued a statement announcing their decision to call off the tour.

“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 Blackcaps will not continue with the tour,” it said.

NZC declined to share details of the security threat and said arrangements were being made for the team’s departure.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said NZC had “unilaterally decided to postpone the series” despite “foolproof security arrangements” made for the matches.

“The Pakistan prime minister [Imran Khan] spoke personally to the prime minister [Jacinda Ardern] of New Zealand and informed her that we have one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team,” the PCB said in a statement.

“PCB is willing to continue the scheduled matches. However, cricket lovers in Pakistan and around the world will be disappointed by this last minute withdrawal.”

Newly-appointed PCB chair Ramiz Raja’s tone in a tweet in response to the situation was of frustration. The former Pakistan captain said they would approach the International Cricket Council (ICC) over what transpired on a “crazy day”.

“Walking out of the tour by taking a unilateral approach on a security threat is very frustrating. Especially when it’s not shared!! Which world is NZ living in?? NZ will hear us at ICC,” Raja tweeted.

New Zealand, minus several front-line players, were visiting Pakistan for the first time in 18 years and were also due to play five Twenty20 matches in Lahore.

Top teams have largely shunned Pakistan after an attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 that killed six policemen and two civilians.

“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,” NZC CEO David White said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern backed NZC’s decision to end the tour.

“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,” she said in a statement.

More disappointment could be in store for the PCB with England now reconsidering what was to be their first Pakistan visit in 16 years to play two Twenty20 matches in Rawalpindi next month.

“We are liaising with our security team who are on the ground in Pakistan to fully understand the situation,” an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) spokesperson said.

The ECB Board will decide in the next few days if the tour should proceed.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam summed up the sentiments in Pakistan where fans have been starved of live action involving top teams.

“Extremely disappointed on the abrupt postponement of the series, which could have brought the smiles back for millions of Pakistan cricket fans,” tweeted the batsman.