New Zealand’s cricket squad has ended its Pakistan tour before the first ball was bowled after receiving security warnings about possible terror attacks targeting the tourists.
A reassuring phone call by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Kiwi counterpart Jacinda Ardern was to no avail as New Zealand abruptly abandoned its cricket tour to Pakistan on Friday due to security fears.
The first of three ODI clashes was meant to begin in Rawalpindi on Friday morning, but the players never made it to the ground, being told to stay inside their rooms. They will now return home.
“Following an escalation in the New Zealand Government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisors on the ground, it has been decided the Black Caps will not continue with the tour,” New Zealand Cricket said in a statement.
“Arrangements are now being made for the team’s departure.”
NZC chief executive David White said it was not possible to proceed with the tour given the advice he was receiving.
‘Player safety is paramount’
“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,” he said.
New Zealand was visiting Pakistan for the first time in 18 years and was scheduled to play three one-day internationals and five Twenty20 matches in Rawalpindi and Lahore.
The team had not toured Pakistan since 2003 due to security concerns in the country.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said New Zealand Cricket informed it that “they had been alerted to some security alert and have unilaterally decided to postpone the series.”
The PCB said Prime Minister Khan – the Pakistan cricket great – spoke personally to New Zealand PM Ardern and informed her “we have one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team.”
New Zealand Cricket’s security team had cleared Rawalpindi and Lahore last month for the tour.
“The 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.
“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.”
Not the first time
In May 2002, New Zealand abandoned their Test series in Pakistan after a suicide bomb attack outside their Karachi hotel.
Pakistan was a no-go zone for international cricket teams for a decade after terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009.
The ambush killed seven people and injured several Sri Lankan cricketers, including Thilan Samaraweera, who is among the New Zealand tour management as the batting coach.
Since international teams resumed touring Pakistan in 2019, this is the first instance of a team having to abandon while in the country.
England are due to play Pakistan in back-to-back Twenty20 internationals in Rawalpindi on October 13th and 14th.
An England Cricket Board spokesperson said: “We’re aware of New Zealand’s decision to pull out of the Pakistan tour due to a security alert.
“We are liaising with our security team who are on the ground in Pakistan to fully understand the situation.
“The ECB Board will then decide in the next 24-48 hours whether our planned tour should proceed.”