An unjust and hasty decision

DailyTimes  |  Sep 19, 2021

New Zealand have literally put Pakistan cricket in the dock. By unilaterally putting plug on their tour in 18 years citing ‘security concern and alert’, the Black Caps have not only damaged Pakistan’s credibility beyond repair but also put future of international cricket in the country in jeopardy. Without consulting the hosts, they took an unjust and hasty decision. Friday’s move was a massive setback to Pakistan, which has been trying to revive tours by foreign sides after home internationals were suspended in the aftermath of a 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan side. New Zealand abandoned their tour with their Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern backing just before the first one-day international was due to start at Rawalpindi Stadium. The decision has left cricket-crazy Pakistan not only reeling but also left a generation of cricket fans growing up having never attended a live game. Soon after the first ODI’s abandonment, a Rawalpindi police advisory citing a threat to the tour issued earlier this week emerged. It is not clear if this is the advisory New Zealand Cricket (NZC) acted upon or they have their own intelligence advisory.

Everyone in Pakistan is nevertheless frustrated because despite repeated attempts, no information has been shared with the PCB, the government and the security agencies regarding the threat, as well as the fact that multiple reassurances as to the visitors’ safety, and the state-level security provided to them, fell on deaf ears. The big question which arises here is if a threat had become apparent within the last 48 hours then why the New Zealand still turned up to training the day before the game.

There is so much wrong – and of course perturbing – about this entire unfortunate episode. What more mind boggling is that no one in Pakistan has any idea what the so-called ‘security threat’ is that prompted New Zealand to take this extreme step. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call to his counterpart also seems to have yielded no result in terms of figuring out what went wrong. While New Zealand have the right to take the decision that they have, they have little right to keep Pakistan in the dark about the real reason why they opted to insult the hosts by just walking away. Something somewhere is not adding up. It makes no sense and is really baffling. A security delegation from New Zealand last month inspected arrangements in Pakistan and it was only after their clearance the tour was given a go-ahead. The squad were provided with a level of security usually reserved for visiting heads of state that included armed guards escorting their bulletproof buses. Their Islamabad hotel was guarded by a heavy paramilitary and police contingents. Pakistan had made huge efforts to secure the safety of New Zealand. The calling off of the tour is a big blow to the efforts the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), who will suffer financial losses in millions, the government and the security agencies who had been making to fully restore international cricket in Pakistan.

Having hosted more and more series in the country over the last couple of years, Pakistan’s anger and frustration stems from the fear of the precedent this cancellation now sets for the future. Pakistan needs to restore the confidence of the cricketing world. Pakistan will have to prove that New Zealand’s decision was wrong and unfair. The PCB will now have to work overtime to avoid another period of exile. Their first task will be to convince England, who decides on Sunday (today) whether to send their men and women’s teams for a scheduled tour to Pakistan next month. Those tours are to be followed by a series against the West Indies in December and Australia’s first visit since 1998 in February next year. There is a likelihood of England not touring. Australia will also probably not come. It’s going to hurt Pakistan cricket big time!

The PCB suffered $200 million in losses during the country’s cricket exile. Now, alongside the upcoming tours, its bids to host six international events —- including the World Cup and Champions’ Trophy between 2024-31 — could also be in jeopardy. International cricket has been slowly revived over the years in Pakistan. The Sri Lankan cricket team were the first to return to Pakistan in 2019, while South Africa visited for a tour in January after a 14 year gap. Pakistan have also hosted Bangladesh and Zimbabwe since the 2009 attacks, with each tour going off without any security hitch.

New Zealand had landed in Pakistan on September 11 for the first time since 2003 and were due to play three ODIs in Rawalpindi, followed by five Twenty20 internationals in Lahore. They were without many of their top players – who are instead heading to the UAE for the Indian Premier League – including captain and leading batsman Kane Williamson, and pace bowling trio Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson. New Zealand previously cut short a tour in 2002 after a bomb blast outside their team hotel in Karachi killed 14 French naval staff. Pakistan did host series against the Black Caps in the United Arab Emirates in 2009, 2014 and 2018.

Having hosted more and more series in the country over the last couple of years, Pakistan’s anger and frustration stems from the fear of the precedent this cancellation now sets for the future. Pakistan needs to restore the confidence of the cricketing world. Pakistan will have to prove that New Zealand’s decision was wrong and unfair. The PCB will now have to work overtime to avoid another period of exile. Their first task will be to convince England, who decides on Sunday (today) whether to send their men and women’s teams for a scheduled tour to Pakistan next month. Those tours are to be followed by a series against the West Indies in December and Australia’s first visit since 1998 in February next year. There is a likelihood of England not touring. Australia will also probably not come. It’s going to hurt Pakistan cricket big time!

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