Pakistan fans, cricketers in shock as New Zealand abandon tour over ‘safety’ concerns
Anger spread through the country as New Zealand Cricket (NZC) announced that their team will not play any match in Pakistan due to a perceived threat.
The Black Caps arrived in the country after 18 years on September 11 and were scheduled to play three ODIs in Rawalpindi followed by a three-match T20I series in Lahore.
In a dramatic turn of events on Friday, no players showed up at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium where all three 50-over matches were scheduled to be organised.
Soon after, reports emerged that the first ODI has been postponed because of three coronavirus cases in the visitors’ camps.
However, after a little while, it was officially declared that the Kiwis will leave the country because of a security threat.
Things turn sour
NZC, in a short press release, stated that the tour is cancelled on the advice of the government and chief executive David White stated that it was simply not possible to continue.
“I understand this will be a blow for the PCB, who have been wonderful hosts,” he was quoted in the statement. “But player safety is paramount and we believe this is the only responsible option.”
New Zealand Cricket Players Association chief executive Heath Mills supported White’s statement by saying: “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.”
The development left a bad taste between the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and NZC which was evident by the press release of the former where it was stated that the decision was taken ‘unilaterally’.
“Earlier today, NZC informed us they had been alerted to some security alert and have unilaterally decided to postpone the series,” the statement said. “The PCB and Pakistan Government made foolproof security arrangements for all visiting teams. We have assured the NZC of the same. 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.
“The security officials with the New Zealand team have been satisfied with security arrangements made by the Pakistan Government throughout their stay here. 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.”
PCB’s newly elected chairman Ramiz Raja also lambasted the decision taken by the NZC in a tweet from his personal account.
“Crazy day it has been!,” he wrote. “Feel so sorry for the fans and our players. 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.”
No security threat to cricket in Pakistan: Sheikh Rasheed
Later, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, in a press conference stated that the security agencies in the country did not receive any threat in regard to the New Zealand cricket team.
“We tried to convince them to play the match without spectators, but they did not agree to it,” he said. “None of our intelligence agencies, which are among the best in the world, have any information about a threat. Pakistan is playing a major role in the region and they do not want us to prosper. We have sacrificed before and peace will prevail here at all costs. My ministry has all [done] all arrangements. In our country, there is no security issue for cricket.”
Rare show of unity
After the day-long developments which left all the cricket fans in the country in discomfort, current players showed a rare form of unity through their Twitter accounts.
Skipper Babar Azam was the first to lead the charge where he called the situation ‘extremely disappointed’.
“Extremely disappointed on the abrupt postponement of the series, which could have brought the smiles back for millions of Pakistan cricket fans,” he wrote. “I’ve full trust in the capabilities and credibility of our security agencies. They are our pride and always will be! Pakistan Zindabad!”
Veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik expressed optimism that Pakistan cricket will recover from these testing times as well.
“Just landed & got the news of New Zealand tour cancellation,” he wrote. “IMO if Sri Lanka can visit Pakistan after what happened followed by countries like SA, WI, BD, ZIM in recent times with successful tours, why not NZ? Not only me but millions of cricket fans are also gutted by this decision. If needed Pakistan will never back out, God forbid if such a situation surfaces just the way we didn’t in the past! In such times, all that matters is we help each other and play the game we love the most.”
Young pacer Naseem Shah urged everyone to ‘stay strong’.
“New Zealand’s decision to cancelling their tour of Pakistan is extremely disappointing,” he wrote. “All of us need to stay strong. Pakistan is safe and secure. Long live Pakistan.”
Explosive middle-order batsman Asif Ali expressed optimism that these difficult times will pass.
“It is heartbreaking for all of us players and fans both,” he wrote. “Cancellation of New Zealand tour of Pakistan is very disappointing. We all need to stay strong and united and we shall pass this time too.”
Veteran all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez called Black Caps’ decision to abandon the tour ‘unacceptable’.
“Pakistan’s intelligence agencies & our armed forces are the pride of every Pakistani,” he wrote. “This unilateral decision of New Zealand is not acceptable. Pakistan is safe.”
Former Test captain Azhar Ali expressed full confidence in the security agencies of the country.
“Heartbreaking news. We have full confidence in our security forces, agencies and we are proud of them. #PakistanZindabad,” he wrote.
Karachi Kings captain Imad Wasim expressed optimism that the board will continue their efforts to ensure that international cricket returns home.
“Heartbroken to see the last-minute withdrawal of the #PAKvNZ series that we all waited for over the past 18 years and was so excited,” he wrote. “Pakistan has made lots of efforts to get cricket back home and we’ll keep doing that iA #PakistanZindabad.”
Star wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan reminded NZC about Pakistan’s gesture after the Christchurch attack.
“Everyone including Pakistan supported NZ after the tragic incident of Christchurch,” he wrote. “And now a historic tour is unilaterally cancelled by them because of a so-called threat. This abrupt move is disappointing especially when our brilliant security forces ensured zero-threat. Sad!”
Vice-captain in white-ball formats Shadab Khan was of the opinion that arranging successful tours of foreign teams as well as the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in the country is evidence that cricket is safe in this part of the world.
“This is heartbreaking,” he said. “Pakistanis love cricket so much, we have worked really hard to bring cricket back here. PSL & other teams visiting Pakistan is evidence of our hospitality & security arrangements. We will continue our efforts. #PakistanZindabad.”
Star left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi stated that he has no words to express his feelings.
“Wish I had words to describe my disappointment,” he wrote. “We do not only have the best security force in the world but many foreign teams have successfully & peacefully completed their cricket tours in Pakistan. Can feel for the cricket lovers in Pakistan & around the world.”
Veteran left-handed batsman Shan Masood believes that Pakistan has taken ‘monumental steps’ in hosting teams back home.
“Pakistan has made monumental efforts to get international cricket back on track,” he wrote. “We’ve lost a lot with no international cricket for 6 years in the past and today might set us back again. The pulling out and the abrupt timing of the decision is extremely disappointing.”
Veteran left-arm pacer Wahab Riaz stated that he was ‘dejected’ after hearing the news that the series was cancelled.
“Dejected and disappointment are my emotions right now,” he wrote. “For many years we’ve shown that Pakistan is safe for cricket. So sad to see the tour end without starting.”
Opening batter Imam-ul-Haq stated that Pakistan is safe to host any team.
“My country is safe and my country is safe for cricket,” he wrote. “This is a heartbreaking moment for us as a team and for all the fans. We will keep making our efforts InshAllah Pakistan Zindabad.”
Left-handed opening batsman Fakhar Zaman said that the security situation in the country is ‘satisfactory’.
“The security situation in Pakistan is great and satisfactory,” he wrote. “Extraordinary security has been provided to the New Zealand team. After complete assurance and satisfaction, the call for this last-minute withdrawal of the series by NZ is so sad. Sorry to our cricket fans #PAKvNZ.”
Star pacer Hasan Ali vowed to turn these sad times into happy ones once the cricket will resume.
“It is making me more sad thinking about how upset our fans must be after receiving this news,” he wrote. “To the world, I want to repeat our country is safe for cricket. To our fans, We the Pakistan team promise we will turn these sad feelings into happy ones InshAllah.”
Pacer Haris Rauf was of the opinion that a ‘wrong precedent’ was set by the Black Caps.
“A wrong precedent has been set & it’s not a good omen at all for the cricket fraternity,” he wrote. “Our security & intelligence agencies are capable to curb & assess any kind of threat. In past few years, they’ve successfully managed safety & security of international events #PakistanZindabad.”
What they say
NZC’s decision to abandon the tour did not go well with the former Pakistan players, notable international cricketers as well as commentators.
Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi asked the Black Caps whether they are aware of their decision’s impact on the state of cricket in Pakistan.
“On a HOAX threat, you have called off the tour despite all assurances,” he wrote. “New Zealand Cricket do you understand the IMPACT of your decision?”
Legendary commentator Alan Wilkins stated that he was hugely ‘disappointed’ with the development.
“Hugely disappointing that the New Zealand’s tour to Pakistan is abandoned,” he wrote. “The PCB has worked so hard in such challenging times to bring cricket back to the homeland, this is a crushing blow to Pakistan’s cricket fans, and will surely impact future incoming tours.”
Famous Sri Lankan commentator Roshan Abeysinghe asked the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to visit Pakistan despite what happened on Friday.
“Very sad to read about the cancellation of the NZ tour of Pakistan,” he wrote. “Was part of the Sri Lanka tour last time and I must admit that besides the country being full of great people, the security was top class and attention paid to detail. Hope sanity prevails. Despite the decision of NZ to abandon the tour for security reasons, the rest of the world should look at Pakistan objectively. The PCB has ensured top-class security for all tours so far hence I hope ECB will not keep away as the country needs cricket to happen.”
Current head coach Saqlain Mushtaq stated that it was a ‘shame’ to witness such a day.
“We were very excited,” he wrote. “We were ready and looking forward to the matches against New Zealand. A real disappointment for all of us, the PCB, support staff, players and I am sure the nation. Our government and officials have provided us with a very high level of security. Such a shame to witness this day”
Cricket presenter Zainab Abbas expressed her disappointment by saying: “Quite disappointing the way it’s all ended before it even began. Not the best of days for Pak cricket.”
Two-time World T20-winning captain Darren Sammy re-emphasized that visiting Pakistan has been one of the ‘most enjoyable experiences’ for him in the past.
“Disappointed waking up to the news of the cancellation of the Pakistan Vs New Zealand series because of security issues,” he wrote. “Over the last 6 years playing and visiting Pakistan has been one of the most enjoyable experiences. I’ve always felt safe. this is a massive blow to Pakistan”
Former top-order batter and now renowned commentator Bazid Khan stated that such a move is a ‘terrible precedent set’.
“If you don’t trust the host nations security or all the recce/processes that precede a tour then it’s so much more than just a slippery slope,” he wrote. “A terrible precedent set.”
Pakistan’s women’s star batter Javeria Khan believes that calling a series like that was ‘unprofessional’.
“Calling off a series like that is not only unprofessional but also unethical,” she wrote. “New Zealand has set a bad precedence in cricket and has also disappointed all fans in Pakistan.”
Former head coach Waqar Younis was ‘gutted’ with the development.
“No better and safer place than Pakistan,” he wrote. “Home tours of SA, SL, ZIM and PSL editions are evidence of Pakistan’s safety & hospitality. Gutted and disappointed. Expected better of NZ.”
Pakistan women’s captain Bisma Maroof reiterated that New Zealand’s decision broke the hearts of Pakistan cricket fans.
“The whole world knows that we’re a cricket and peace-loving nation. we have been making all possible efforts to get cricket back home,” she wrote. “The decision of the NZ cricket board & govt has broken our hearts, damaged our cricket by ignoring our efforts & struggles of past years.”
Sri Lanka’s top-order batsman Dimuth Karunaratne expressed that he felt ‘ultra-safe’ when the team travelled to Pakistan in 2019.
“Sad to note NZ tour of PK has been called off,” he wrote. “Two years ago, the PCB’s security made sure we were ultra-safe through the entire tour with security protocol generally provided for the heads of the state.”
His fellow teammate Angelo Perera agreed with the sentiment of his colleague.
“Toured Pakistan two years back and enjoyed every minute of our stay,” he wrote. “Felt extremely welcomed and safe tbh! Never had any doubt. Genuinely want to see cricket return to this great nation!”
Former Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur, who is now coaching Sri Lanka, stated that he was sad to learn about the cancellation of the series.
“So sad to hear of the cancellation of the tour of Pakistan,” he wrote. “Pakistan is a county full of wonderful cricket-loving people who made my 3 years there incredible!”
Former Pakistan captain and now renowned commentator Sana Mir was still trying to ‘wrap’ her head around New Zealand’s withdrawal from the tour.
“Still trying to wrap my head around this cancellation,” she wrote. “After hosting so many successful series in the recent past in Pakistan, Pakistan Cricket and fans are really gutted.”
Former Kiwis fast-bowler and now a renowned commentator Simon Doull, while responding to Ramiz’s tweet, said that Pakistan fans deserve ‘full disclosure’.
“Thoughts with you and all cricket fans at this decision mate,” he said. “You and all fans deserve full disclosure on this matter from NZC or however can the relationship move forward
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