1 June 2015 update: ICC has described Pakistan-Zimbabwe series historic. Zimbabwe is all praise for Pakistani hospitality as tour ends and Zimbabwe return home.
Today is no ordinary day.
It’s the first time in six years that an international cricket team has landed in Pakistan.
Six years ago in March 2009, it was a fateful attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore which shattered the confidence and shut the door of international cricket in Pakistan.
Early this morning, Zimbabwe cricket players arrived in Lahore and became the first full international cricket team to visit Pakistan for a bilateral cricket series.
According to ESPN and Express Tribune reports, the visitors landed at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore at 1.45 am on Tuesday amid extensive security, with thousands of policemen deployed along the 14km route to a five-star hotel on The Mall.
The touring group – 16 Zimbabwe players, nine team officials and five board officials – was flanked by a large convoy of police commandos, after they had been received by two PMLN ministers along with the top brass of the PCB.
Pakistanis are euphoric. A cursory look at Twitter will tell you how happy Pakistani nation is.
Cricket is big money too. We trust that everyone in Pakistan will be enthusiastic and sponsors will come forward in super sizes and with big pockets. This is likely to make PCB fat and can help them bring bigger, superstar cricketing teams to Pakistan.
Umpire Ahsan Raza: Now, I never feel scared.
Zimbabwe-Pakistan cricket series schedule
Zimbabwe are scheduled to play two Twenty20 and three one-day internationals amid massive security at the Gaddafi Stadium between May 22 and 31 before departing on June 1.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said this tour will set a precedent and give other international cricket teams the confidence to visit Pakistan.
“We are thankful to Zimbabwe Cricket for taking this leap of faith, and trusting us,” PCB COO Subhan Ahmed said, adding that the PCB had been trying for a while to get international teams to visit Pakistan, with Bangladesh coming close in 2012.
There were doubts whether the five-match tour would go ahead after the massacre of 45 Ismailis in an attack on a bus in Karachi last week.
Views on the tour are mixed with Sri Lanka-born Zimbabwe coach Dav Whatmore upbeat. Whatmore was earlier Pakistan team’s coach.
“I appreciate the significance of this tour to Pakistan and I am happy to go,” he told Zimbabwe radio.Dav Whatmore tweets:
Pakistan had been a no-go destination since 2009
Pakistan had remained a no-go destination for major international teams since March 3, 2009, when gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus while it was en route to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore for the third day of the second Test.
Eight people were killed during the attack – and some players were injured – at Liberty roundabout, located a kilometre and a half from the stadium.
Since the attack on the Sri Lankans, Pakistan had played ‘home’ matches in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
PS: In an unrelated development, Axact offices in Karachi and Rawalpindi have been raided by FIA after New York Times published an expose on how Axact made millions of dollars by selling fake degrees.
26 May 2015 update: After two T20s and one ODI, Zimbabwe Cricket chairman declares Pakistan ‘safe’ for international matches. Rob Crilly tweets:
See also: Everything else we reported on Pakistan and its future (links below)
Which country has the worst air pollution? | Hint: Pakistan
Do not miss our Understanding Pakistan Series