ISLAMABAD: The New Zealand cricket team called off Pakistan tour at the eleventh hour after the Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, United States, and United Kingdom, advised Wellington to do so, NZ Herald reported.
The New Zealand daily said that the security threat was deemed credible before the first ODI match. It led to phone calls between New Zealand Cricket and Pakistan Cricket Board, and Pakistan and New Zealand prime ministers.
“Within 12 hours of those conversations, the tour was cancelled,” the report said.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand cricket team left Pakistan for Dubai on a chartered flight.
The Kiwi players and officials underwent rapid Covid-19 tests at the Islamabad International Airport. They were allowed to board the flight after all the reports came negative amid tight security protocols.
The team reached the airport at 8:10pm after being escorted by a presidential level security team. Special security units had taken control of the route between the hotel and the airport.
The Kiwi team stayed at the state guest lounge at the airport, where they went through rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for Covid-19 before the departure. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had given special permission to the chartered plane, which landed at the airport after a two-hour delay.
On Friday, New Zealand had abruptly abandoned their tour of Pakistan citing a security alert. The Blackcaps had called off the series at the eleventh hour citing unspecified security threats despite being given security assurance by Prime Minister Imran Khan to his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern.
NZC Chief Executive David White
New Zealand Cricket (NZC) Chief Executive David White on Monday expressed willingness to discuss the restaging of the Pakistan series the Black Caps abandoned last week, but said talks of touring the country again were premature considering their schedule was already “pretty tight”.
The Black Caps devastated Pakistan’s cricket fraternity on September 17 after opting out of their tour of Pakistan minutes before the first ODI was to be played. They had cited a ‘security threat’ as the reason without divulging any further.
In a new report, New Zealand media website Stuff quoted White as saying: “We’ve got a very close working relationship with Pakistan Cricket. We’d like to think that over the next few days, weeks and months that we’ll work through this to ensure that we play the content that we’ve missed out on and we continue our close working relationship.”
“As we know they’re a very passionate cricketing nation and they’re obviously disappointed. We understand their disappointment,” he added.
According to the report, the NZC chief was hopeful the matches would be rescheduled but was not sure about when as the Future Tours Programme was already “pretty tight”.
Regarding compensating the PCB for lost revenue, White said the issue would be discussed in due course. He hoped that the decision to abandon the tour would not be held against NZC when the time came for Pakistan to tour New Zealand.
No doubt there was serious threat
New Zealand Cricket Players’ Association (NZCPA) chief executive Heath Mills has said that there is no doubt that there was a serious and credible threat on the BlackCaps on its now-abandoned tour of Pakistan.
The New Zealand men’s cricket team on Sunday arrived in Dubai after leaving Islamabad on a charter flight. The contingent of 34 players and support staff are now settling into their Dubai hotel and undergoing their 24-hour period of self-isolation. Of this group, 24 will return to New Zealand over the next week or so, as flights and MIQ rooms in New Zealand become available.
“We have a comprehensive security-check process that we complete prior to going on any tour. We’ll always take that seriously and treat it as a serious issue until we can demonstrate otherwise,” stuff.co.nz quoted Mills as saying.
“Once we went through that checking process and spoke to independent people, there was no doubt that it was a serious and credible attack on the tour. Once you hear that you understand there’s no option but for the team to come home,” he added.
When asked about getting the team out of Pakistan, Mills said: “I think because they’ve been involved in the security-check processes, they had been on the ground and felt safe in Pakistan, saw the resources around them and have confidence in our security experts, they knew they were going to be okay while they remained in Pakistan at the hotel. So we just had to work on getting out.”
“There’s been anxiousness, they were keen to leave but they were very calm throughout the whole process,” he added.