LAHORE: After much confusion about a scheduled visit in the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack on Karachi’s Ismaili community, Zimbabwe on Friday decided to go ahead with this month’s historic cricket tour to Pakistan.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Shaharyar Khan announced Zimbabwe’s decision to reporters in Lahore.
“Zimbabwe Cricket Chairman Wilson Manase called me three times to reaffirm that Zimbabwe would be touring Pakistan as per schedule,” said Shaharyar.
Zimbabwe are due to arrive in Pakistan on May 22 to play three One-Day Internationals and two Twenty20 International matches.
A security team working under the supervision of Zimbabwe Cricket had expressed satisfaction over the tour, but security concerns rose after gunmen attacked the Ismaili community’s bus in Karachi, killing at least 45 people.
Zimbabwe then decided to pull out of the tour but in a bizarre turnaround retracted its decision within 16 minutes.
The Zimbabwean board initially released a statement saying that a decision had been reached not to tour on the advice of Harare’s supreme sports regulatory authority, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC).
The SRC had previously cited concerns over the safety of the touring party.
But after the news release was issued, the statement was withdrawn and Zimbabwe Cricket spokesman Lovemore Banda said discussions were still in progress and no decision had been taken on cancelling the tour.
No major international teams have toured Pakistan since militants attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team’s bus in Lahore in March 2009, killing six Pakistani policemen and two civilians. Six members of the Sri Lanka squad were also injured.
On May 6, Alistair Campbell — Zimbabwe Cricket’s managing director — headed a security delegation to Pakistan to assess the security situation in Lahore and expressed satisfaction over the arrangements in place by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Following which the Zimbabwean board announced its 16-man squad to tour Pakistan this week.
Zimbabwe will be the first ICC full member team to visit Pakistan since March 2009, when the attack on the Sri Lankan team took place. Since then only non-Test-playing Kenya and Associate Afghanistan have toured Pakistan.
Pakistan and Zimbabwe last faced off in Zimbabwe two years ago with coach Dav Whatmore at the helm.
Whatmore has now taken that position with Zimbabwe and it is being speculated that the 61-year-old may have played a role in convincing Zimbabwe Cricket in allaying its security concerns and agree to a tour to Pakistan.
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