ZIMBABWE national cricket team’s tour of Pakistan was in danger of being cancelled last night at the advice of the Foreign Affairs ministry which is against the idea of the team travelling to the troubled Asian country after a suspected terrorist attack in Karachi on Wednesday.
BY KEVIN MAPASURE
Yesterday, Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) officials were locked up in meetings with government officials as they sought to come up with a final position on the matter.
Late afternoon, ZC issued a statement to the effect that the tour was cancelled, but further communication advised that discussions were still on going with a new announcement set to follow soon.
ZC had committed to sending the national team to Pakistan to become the first full-member country to tour since the 2009 gun attack on the Sri Lankan national team.
Pakistan had done everything to convince ZC, including offering to take care of the team’s match fees and allowances, but just days before the team’s scheduled departure, Zimbabwe might have pulled the plug on what would have been a lucrative outing even for the players who had been promised $12 500 each as an extra incentive outside their normal match earnings.
Zimbabwe was scheduled to play three one-day internationals and two T20s.
Pakistan is desperate to restore home tours while Zimbabwe is also desperate to increase game time and the two had struck a deal convenient for both.
The deal would have seen Pakistan returning the favour in August for limited overs series.
But the disturbances in Karachi which saw 43 people killed might have fuelled concern within the government and a decision that might sadden expectant Pakistanis, who have been trying for a year to convince Zimbabwe, could come today.
Zimbabwe’s pullout would come as a blow to Pakistan which was already exploring the possibility of hosting Bangladesh, but it might also come as a relief to the families of the Zimbabwe players who might have been worried over this trip, especially after the latest gun attack.
The first statement released by ZC yesterday showed that the government had issued a travel warning against the expedition.
Part of the statement read: “The decision not to tour at this time has been taken after considering the advice from the country’s supreme sports regulatory authority, the Sports and Recreation Commission, which wrote to ZC saying that it, had been advised against the tour by the Foreign Affairs ministry.”
SRC director-general Charles Nhemachena’s letter to ZC chief executive officer Wilfred Mukondiwa added: “We have consulted on the security situation in Pakistan with particular reference to your intended cricket tour of the country and have been advised that it would not be safe for the team to travel to Pakistan at this point in time.”
Zimbabwe national team players have been preparing for the tour in the last four weeks and only two days ago Charles Coventry had joined the squad to complete a full complement of those that have been called up.
The Dav Whatmore-coached side is likely to continue with serious training ahead of their home tour against India in July, whatever happens to the Pakistan series.
ZC sent a security inspection team which included managing director Alistair Campbell to Pakistan last week, which was satisfied with the set up and seemed to give a vote of confidence for Zimbabwe to send its cricketers.
Campbell had expressed confidence that the tour would go ahead. Initially, Pakistan wanted Zimbabwe to play some of the matches in Karachi, but ZC turned down that request preferring to play all the matches in Lahore.
Pakistan is one of the countries that supported ZC when they were faced with the same problem in 2002 when other nations had expressed concern over security. The Asians toured Zimbabwe and travelled from Bulawayo by road to allay any security fears.