LAHORE — Wilson Manase, the Zimbabwe Cricket chairman, has said the landmark decision to tour Pakistan was taken after he had spoken to the Zimbabwe’s defence department and was told that it was alright to play in Pakistan.
He was responding to the suggestion from several quarters that the decision to tour was taken despite advice to the contrary from the government’s Sports and Recreation Committee (SRC).
“SRC consulted with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and someone there said it might not be safe to visit Pakistan particularly after the Karachi incident, but Karachi is different from Lahore,” Manase told ESPNcricinfo.
“I tried to see the officials in SRC and they kept on saying that they are busy, and time was obviously short for us as well as we had only two days to go before the team departs.
“So what I did was to consult with the relevant authorities in government, the defence forces — they have got the intelligence, they are the people who know what the situation is and they have given a go-ahead from that area. They told me it’s safe to go. Also, the team that came here to look at the situation gave a clearance and then I took the decision.”
Pakistan has been a no-go destination for major international teams since March 3 2009, when gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus while it was en route to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore for the third day of the second Test.
Over the last few years, the PCB has been pushing hard to convince teams to tour Pakistan, who have been forced to play their home matches in the United Arab Emirates.
Zimbabwe were the first Full-Member nation to tour Pakistan in more than six years, but the International Cricket Council (ICC) refused to send its match officials for the games.
Manase hoped Zimbabwe’s visit would help change the perception of Pakistan in the international cricket community.
“I would like to indicate to the world — especially the Test-playing nations — that Pakistan is a safe country to play cricket,” Manase said.
“We need to encourage members of the ICC to relook at the position of not visiting Pakistan, and if they are watching how things have gone, they would realise that Pakistan, in the quest to have teams visit, have done great work to create an environment where cricket can be played safely.
“For the nations who remain skeptical, they should have sent some delegation to come and be part of this event and watch what is happening in Pakistan. That would have given them confidence. But wherever they are, I believe they are watching. They are watching that the grounds are so full, they are watching the security given by the government and have understood Pakistan have the capacity to take any measures for the visiting team. I will brief them in the upcoming ICC meeting in Barbados.”
While the security detail for Zimbabwe’s tour of Pakistan has been extremely heavy — thousands of personnel being only one of the measures put in place — the visitors have also been warmly embraced by the people of Pakistan, who have expressed their gratitude with cheers and posters during the first two Twenty20 internationals in Lahore.
“We have been welcomed greatly by the general population of this country,” Manase said.
“In actual fact, the hospitality we have received here, we have not received anywhere in the word where we have gone to play cricket. We have felt safe here because the cricket board in conjunction with the government has made us feel secure.”
There had been reports that several Zimbabwe players were reluctant to tour Pakistan in the days before their scheduled departure to Lahore, but all 16 of the first-choice squad eventually made the trip.
Manase said no one had any misgivings.
“I can tell you that players were never reluctant. They were always ready to go, we never had any dissent within,” Manase said.
“All players who were selected did come. We are safe, the players are safe, and there is no problem.”
Pakistan won the T20 international series 2-0, though Zimbabwe ran them close in both games.
The first of three day-night one-day internationals will take place at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday, and Pakistan will tour Zimbabwe in August this year for a return series. — ESPNcricinfo