Despite a grave warning from a major players’ group, Zimbabwe was “very excited” about touring Pakistan this month, Zimbabwe Cricket managing director Alistair Campbell said on Wednesday. Campbell spoke while leading a four-member delegation from Zimbabwe to evaluate security arrangements for the two Twenty20s and three one-day internationals this month, all in Lahore. They were accompanied by independent security experts from the International Cricket Council.
Lahore was the same city in which gunmen attacked a convoy carrying the Sri Lanka team and test match officials in 2009, and killed security personnel and civilians. Since then, Pakistan has played all of its home games mainly in the United Arab Emirates. And the only teams to have toured Pakistan have been minor sides like Kenya and Afghanistan. Zimbabwe agreed last week to become the first Test-playing nation to tour Pakistan since the attack, and Pakistan will reciprocate in August.
A day after the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association said the risk of touring Pakistan was “unmanageable” and “remains unacceptable,” Campbell said he was satisfied with the security arrangements. “They’ve left no stone unturned to make sure that we will be safe,” he said.
“We look forward to coming here.We look forward to be back in (a) couple of weeks’ time to get down to real business, which is playing cricket. “You have to start somewhere, (and) we are very excited to be here. Our team is excited to arrive here, and play in Pakistan, and get more cricket under their belt, get some experience under their belt,” he said.
Initially, Pakistan planned some matches in Karachi, but Zimbabwe expressed concerns about extensive traveling, so the series will be played only in Gaddafi Stadium from May 22 to 31. “I’ve played many times here in Pakistan, five-six tours,” Campbell said. “(I was) fortunate to tour the whole country … but this is the start. We start here in Lahore, and hopefully in years to come we’ll come back and play in (the) rest of the country, and resume normal relations with Pakistan.
“We’re very excited to be embarking on this adventure, I would call it. We’re very excited to see what’s ahead … and then look forward to (the) Zimbabwe cricket team arriving here on (the) 19th.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq told ESPNCricinfo that the return of top-flight cricket to the country was “a big joy” for players and fans. “I am really happy about that,” Misbah was quoted as saying. “At least something is happening for which people and players had been waiting for. It’s a big joy for all of Pakistan cricket fans, players and for the PCB officials.”
Misbah was part of the Pakistan team when gunmen had ambushed the Sri Lankan team. “That’s the one thing in my whole life I would want to forget in my cricketing career because the way Pakistan cricket suffered,” he added.
“You were missing home series in Pakistan and you not playing in front of the home crowd and on the ground where you have played most of the cricket throughout your life,” he said.
“You were forced to play outside Pakistan in the UAE, which really hurt Pakistan cricketers because you are not getting the crowd and the kind of feeling that you have playing at home. You get homesickness, as you have to have cricket among your own people in your own grounds.
“Without international cricket in the country, the audience loses the interest because there is no competition going on. Certainly it also hurts the infrastructure, your grounds are not there up to that standards. Eventually it is disturbing for Pakistan cricket and especially for Pakistan Cricket Board who just can’t carry on like that.”
Since 2009, a generation of players has gone to play for Pakistan without playing in Pakistan. “As a player you always want to play in front of crowd as it give you more pleasure to express yourself in front of your own people in your own ground which is not happening for Pakistani cricketers,” Misbah said.
By: Express News Service &AP