LAHORE: Zimbabwe cricket team became the first full-member ICC team to tour Pakistan in six years when its squad landed at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport after midnight Tuesday morning amid high security arrangements.
The squad was welcomed by Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada and Zakir Khan of Pakistan Cricket Board among other dignitaries.
The visiting team was shifted to a local hotel amid tight security arrangements with heavy contingents of law-enforcement agencies deployed along the route to the hotel, in addition to aerial monitoring.
Talking to reporters, Khanzada said other cricket teams would also visit Pakistan “if we manage to host a successful series, as other boards have been monitoring our arrangements”.
The Zimbabwe team is set to play its first Twenty20 match against Pakistan in Lahore on May 22.
Earlier, there were doubts whether the five-match tour would go ahead after the massacre of 45 Shias in an attack on a bus in Karachi last week.
The Zimbabwe team’s arrival marks the first time a Test-level team has toured Pakistan since seven Sri Lankan cricketers were wounded during a 2009 attack by militants in Lahore.
Zimbabwe are scheduled to play two Twenty20 and three One-Day Internationals amid massive security at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
Since the attack on the Sri Lankans, Pakistan have staged 'home' matches in the United Arab Emirates.
Views on the tour are mixed with Sri Lanka-born Zimbabwe coach Dav Whatmore upbeat. “I appreciate the significance of this tour to Pakistan and I am happy to go,” he told Zimbabwe radio.
But the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) said their security advisers were against the tour.
A South African radio station quoted FICA chairman Tony Irish saying: “Tours to Pakistan remain an unacceptable risk and teams are advised against travelling there.”