MINUTES BEFORE their first match in Rawalpindi Friday, New Zealand pulled out of their limited-overs tour of Pakistan because of a “security alert” from their government — a decision that comes as a setback to the host nation, which has not seen much international cricket since a bus carrying Sri Lankan players was targeted by gunmen in 2009.
Soon after New Zealand’s withdrawal, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said they would decide in the next 24-48 hours whether their planned tour should proceed. The England men’s and women’s teams are scheduled to visit Pakistan in October.
New Zealand Cricket (NZC) said in a statement that they “are abandoning their tour of Pakistan following a New Zealand government security alert”.
“The side was to play Pakistan this evening in the first of three ODIs in Rawalpindi, before moving to Lahore for a five-match T20 series. However, following an escalation in the New Zealand Government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisors on the ground, it has been decided the Blackcaps will not continue with the tour,” the statement said.
“Arrangements are now being made for the team’s departure,” it said.
“NZC will not comment on the details of the security threat nor the updated arrangements for the departing squad,” the statement said.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) described New Zealand’s decision as “unilateral” and said the tour was cancelled despite an assurance from Prime Minister Imran Khan, the 1992 World Cup-winning skipper.
“PCB and Govt of Pakistan made foolproof security arrangements for all visiting teams. We have assured the New Zealand cricket board of the same. The Prime Minister spoke personally to the Prime Minister of New Zealand and informed her that we have one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team,” a PCB statement said.
Khan’s New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern told Reuters that she thanked the Pakistan PM for taking care of the visiting team but made clear that she supported the decision to put players’ safety first.
“I know how disappointing it will be for everyone that the game hasn’t gone ahead, but we totally support the decision that’s been made. Player safety has to be paramount,” she said.
The New Zealand team landed in Pakistan last week and took part in training sessions. Both the teams didn’t travel to the stadium for Friday’s game.
Newly appointed PCB chairman Ramiz Raja posted on Twitter: “Crazy day it has been! Feel so sorry for the fans and our players. Walking out of the tour by taking a unilateral approach on a security threat is very frustrating. Especially when it’s not shared!! Which world is NZ living in?? NZ will hear us at ICC.”
NZC chief executive David White said “it was simply not possible to continue with the tour” given the advice he was receiving. “I understand this will be a blow for the PCB, who have been wonderful hosts, but player safety is paramount and we believe this is the only responsible option,” he said in the NZC statement.
The statement also said that NZC Players Association chief executive Heath Mills “echoed White’s sentiments”. “We’ve been across this process throughout and are fully supportive of the decision. The players are in good hands; they’re safe — and everyone’s acting in their best interests,” Mills said.