ISLAMABAD: New Zealand’s abrupt decision to pull out of their cricket tour of Pakistan has created “an unfortunate scenario” but the hosts know how to overcome such crises, the chairman of the country’s cricket board Ramiz Raja said on Saturday.

New Zealand abandoned the tour on the day of the opening fixture on Friday citing a government security alert, while England are also reconsidering their men’s and women’s team visits to Pakistan next month.

The tour was due to start with the first of three one-dayers in Rawalpindi but New Zealand did not travel to the stadium.

“It’s an unfortunate scenario,” Ramiz, who took over as Pakistan Cricket Board chairman on Monday, said in a video posted on the board’s Twitter handle.

“But we’ve faced similar situations in the past and have always overcome them. We’ve tremendous resilience, we have power and that’s because of fans and because of our cricket team. It’s a setback to staging international cricket in Pakistan but we’ll overcome this crisis too.

“There’s a lot of pressure created on Pakistan cricket and [especially] Pakistan cricket at home. The fight to survive is the base on which we challenge the whole world. If such a situation is developed [again] when international cricket comes under pressure in Pakistan, we will challenge them once again.

“If we can’t come out of this pressure, we have enough confidence and power that on our domestic level [that] we can make a world beating team,” he added.

Ramiz was frustrated after New Zealand took a unilateral decision to pull out despite spending five days in the federal capital and having two training sessions at the Pindi Cricket Stadium.

He was also disappointed as New Zealand did not share the security threat with either the PCB or the Pakistan government. He plans to raise the issue with the International Cricket Council.

Ramiz appealed for Pakistan’s fans to help the team come out of this crisis.

“Your pain and my pain are the same, it’s a shared pain, he said. Whatever happened is not good for Pakistan cricket. We should learn from this and move forward, we don’t need to get disappointed.”

Several Pakistan players took to Twitter to vent their anger and frustration at New Zealand’s decision. Ramiz advised them to channel it into improving their performance.

Pakistan are due to play New Zealand in a Twenty20 World Cup group game on October 26 in the United Arab Emirates, two days after they take on rivals India in their opener. Ramiz thinks it could be an opportunity.

“My message to the team is — vent your anger and frustration through your performance on the field,” he said. “If you become the best team in the world, others will queue up here to play you in Pakistan.”

NEW ZEALAND FLY OUT

New Zealand flew out of Islamabad to return home on a chartered flight via the United Arab Emirates after the shock end to their first Pakistan tour in 18 years.

PCB chief executive Wasim Khan was not immediately available to elaborate, while a New Zealand team spokesman declined to share travel plans.

But a Pakistani official, who requested anonymity, said the team and support staff had been escorted to the capital’s airport from their five-star hotel in bulletproof buses.

“A chartered flight came from the United Arab Emirates to collect the New Zealand squad,” said the official, who confirmed their departure on Saturday evening.

New Zealand’s cricket officials threw a veil of secrecy over the security threat that forced the abrupt cancellation.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan that the team feared an attack outside the stadium, according to Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad.

In a brief public statement, Ardern said her government supported the cancellation as “player safety has to be paramount”.

A New Zealand Cricket official said no further comment was planned “at this juncture”, and would not say if the security threat that caused the cancellation had been passed to the Pakistan Cricket Board or any other cricket-playing nation.

The side previously cut short a tour in 2002 after a suicide bombing outside their team hotel in Karachi killed 14 people, including 11 French naval engineers.

Top teams have largely shunned Pakistan in the wake of an attack by Islamist militants on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009 that killed six policemen and two civilians, and there are fears New Zealand’s decision to leave will keep them away.

England are already reconsidering their limited-overs trip to Pakistan next month while Australia, who are scheduled to visit in February-March next year, also appear wary.

A Cricket Australia spokesperson said the organisation was monitoring the situation and would “talk with the relevant authorities once more information becomes known”.

Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998 over security fears.

Pakistan may now have to play ‘home’ matches again in the United Arab Emirates, with current and former players already dreading that prospect.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2021

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