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Last minute ‘security’ backout: Pakistan laments at NZ decision

RAWALPINDI: New Zealand Cricket on Friday decided to postpone its series with Pakistan over security concerns, the Pakistan Cricket Board said in a statement. 

New Zealand was to face Pakistan today, Friday, at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in the first of three one-day internationals (ODIs). The Black Cap squad, which returned to Pakistan for the first time since 2003, is staying at an Islamabad hotel guarded by a heavy contingent of police.

“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. “The Pakistan Prime Minister spoke personally to the Prime Minister 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.”

Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi on Friday.

The board said security officials traveling with the New Zealand team had been satisfied with arrangements made by the Pakistan government.

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

The series was to comprise three ODIs and five Twenty20s starting with a first ODI at Rawalpindi on Friday. Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi was to also host the other two ODIs on September 19 and 21 while Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium was to host all five T20s.

The provincial government of Punjab had on Wednesday requested the Pakistan army and paramilitary Rangers to help with security arrangements for upcoming matches. 

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam (left) and New Zealand’s captain Tom Latham pose for photographers with the one-day series trophy during a ceremony at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium a day before their first one-day international (ODI) match.

International cricket was suspended in Pakistan after a 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan side in Lahore. In the past two years, however, it has slowly revived due to an improvement in security conditions in the country.

The New Zealand cricket team on Friday backed out of its tour of Pakistan over security concerns minutes before the first match was scheduled to start at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium.

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.

The New Zealand contingent in Pakistan is now preparing to leave the country. The NZC said Pakistan had been “wonderful hosts” but added that player safety was “paramount”.

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam (left) and New Zealand’s captain Tom Latham pose for photographers on Thursday.

The touring board said it “will not comment on the details of the security threat nor the updated arrangements for the departing squad”.

Meanwhile, the PCB said Pakistan had “foolproof security arrangements for all visiting teams” and had “assured NZC of the same”.

The statement said that Prime Minister Imran Khan also personally spoke to Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, and informed her that Pakistan had “one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind” existed for the visiting team.

“The security officials with the New Zealand team have been satisfied with security arrangements made by the government throughout their stay,” the statement said, adding that the PCB was willing to continue the matches.

“Cricket lovers in Pakistan and around the world will be disappointed by this last minute withdrawal,” the PCB said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she totally supported New Zealand Cricket’s decision to pull out of the tour.

New Zealand’s cricket team which is going back to their country on Saturday after abandoning the cricket series.

“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.”

The New Zealand cricket team had arrived in Pakistan on September 11 for the first time in 18 years to play three ODIs and five Twenty20 Internationals.

The ODI series against New Zealand was supposed to be played at the Rawalpindi Stadium, with matches scheduled for Sept 17, 19, and 21, while the Gaddafi Stadium was slated to host five T20s from Sept 25 to Oct 3.

NZ says abandoning tour following ‘security alert’

Meanwhile, the New Zealand cricket board said in a statement that it was abandoning the Pakistan tour due to a “government security alert”.

However, it did not comment on the details of the security threat or updated arrangements for the departing squad.

“The side was to play Pakistan this evening (Friday) in the first of three ODIs in Rawalpindi, before moving to Lahore for a five-match T20 series.

“However, 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 statement said, adding that arrangements were being made for the team’s departure.

In the statement, 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 added: “We’ve been across this process throughout and are fully supportive of the decision. The players are in good hands; they’re safe — and everyone’s acting in their best interests.”