- PCB issues statement minutes after first ODI was scheduled to start
- Reactions pour in after cancellation of New Zealand's first tour to Pakistan in 18 years
In a major setback, the cricket series between Pakistan and New Zealand has been cancelled, confirmed the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in a statement issued on Friday, minutes after the first One-Day International was supposed to start.
"Earlier today, Cricket New Zealand (NZC) informed us they had been alerted to some security alert and have unilaterally decided to postpone the series," said the statement.
"The PCB and Pakistan government made foolproof security arrangements for all visiting teams. We assured the New Zealand of the same. The Pakistan 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," added the PCB statement.
The PCB was willing to continue the scheduled matches, it added.
"However, cricket lovers in Pakistan and around the world will be disappointed by this last-minute withdrawal."
NZC chief executive David White, in a statement issued on its website, 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.”
New Zealand Cricket Players Association chief executive Heath Mills echoed White’s sentiments.
“We’ve been across this process throughout and are fully supportive of the decision,” he said.
“The players are in good hands; they’re safe – and everyone’s acting in their best interests.”
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: NZC chief executive David White
NZC will not comment on the details of the security threat nor the updated arrangements for the departing squad, the statement added.
The development comes as a major blow for Pakistan, and its efforts to revive regular international cricket on its soil. New Zealand were touring Pakistan for the first time in 18 years.
The news also comes as a surprise as New Zealand had earlier given the formal go-ahead to its cricket team’s tour to Pakistan.
The approval came after their independent consultant Reg Dickason gave the green-light to security arrangements in Pakistan following a week-long pre-tour check.
Stand-in captain Tom Latham had earlier stated in a virtual pre-series news conference that the players had “full trust” in NZC’s processes and Dickason’s assessment.
“Someone like Reg, he's been around a long time, and he's worked with New Zealand Cricket for a long time. We here have full trust in what he does for New Zealand Cricket and the processes and regulations that they put in place."
Reactions pour in
Pakistan team captain Babar Azam said he was extremely disappointed on the abrupt postponement of the series, "which could have brought the smiles back for millions of Pakistan Cricket Fans".
"I've full trust in the capabilities and credibility of our security agencies. They are our pride and always will be! Pakistan Zindabad," he tweeted.
Meanwhile, information minister Fawad Chaudhry, currently in Dushanbe with PM Imran at the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Heads of State (SCO-CHS) Summit, also expressed his shock at this development.
"New Zealand's own security (team) was satisfied with Pakistan's security arrangements," he tweeted, referring to the earlier go-ahead.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senator Faisal Javed Khan said the security situation in Pakistan is great and satisfactory.
"Extraordinary security has been provided to the New Zealand team. After complete assurance and satisfaction, Call for this last minute withdrawal and postponement of the series by NZ is beyond understanding," he tweeted.
The sudden development upset fans and the cricketing fraternity alike.
Former fast-bowler Shoaib Akhtar expressed his disappointment.
Anwar Ali, the right-arm fast-bowler, said the development was heartbreaking.
"This is not fair," he tweeted.
Mohammad Hafeez was also dejected.
"Postponing series is absolutely sad news for whole nation," the all-rounder tweeted.
West Indies player Darren Sammy said he was disappointed as well, adding that over the six years playing and visiting Pakistan has been one of the most enjoyable experiences for him.
"I’ve always felt safe. this is a massive blow to Pakistan," he said.