Pakistan vs New Zealand: Furious backlash to abandoned tour, reaction, cricket news 2021
New Zealand was set to undertake an 18-year first, but a last-minute security threat has derailed a historic sporting return.
It was a tour 18 years in the making, but a last-minute security threat has derailed what would have been a historic series for Pakistan cricket.
On Friday evening, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) announced the white-ball tour of Pakistan had been abandoned due to a New Zealand government security alert.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) quickly released its on statement claiming “no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team”.
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ESPNcricinfo reported the New Zealand government had become aware of a specific threat which was deemed credible within the last 48 hours.
According to Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan that the cricketers could be attacked outside the stadium.
“He told her that the law and order situation is the best in our country and we give a guarantee that there is no security problem here, there is no security threat,” Ahmed said.
Ardern confirmed on Friday night: “When I spoke with the Prime Minister of Pakistan I conveyed our thanks for taking care of the New Zealand cricket team.
“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.”
NZC refused to disclose details of the security threat, nor the updated arrangements for the departing squad.
A PCB board official told ESPNcricinfo: “We’re still in shock and disbelief at what has happened.
“It’s mind-boggling that we’ve been told nothing by NZC, that no information was shared with us about any threat. Until earlier today we felt that the mood among New Zealand’s players was good and they were willing to play. We were confident in any case that we had the security protocols in place to ensure this tour would go ahead without incident.”
It was New Zealand’s first visit to the subcontinent nation since 2003.
Most cricket nations have refused to tour Pakistan since the tragic Lahore attacks of 2009, with “home” matches instead taking place in the United Arab Emirates.
But Test cricket made its long-awaited return to Pakistan in December 2019 when Sri Lanka agreed to a two-match series.
However, Friday’s security threat could prove a major setback for the PCB ahead of a busy home season.
Newly-elected 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.”
Pakistan cricket stars fume at ‘heartbreaking’ decision
Understandably, Pakistan cricket fans were bitterly disappointed by the announcement.
The subcontinent nation had been starved of international cricket for nearly a decade, and this latest misfortune could have dire consequences for the PCB.
But the abandoned series has also frustrated the Pakistan players, who have spent most of their international careers competing overseas.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam posted to Twitter: “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!”
Bowler Hassan Ali posted: “It is making me more sad thinking about how upset our fans must be after receiving this news. To the world, I want to repeat our country is safe for cricket. To our fans, we the Pakistan team promise we will turn these sad feelings into happy ones.”
Pakistan paceman Wahab Riaz tweeted: “Dejected and disappointment are my emotions right now. For many years we’ve shown that Pakistan is safe for cricket. So sad to see the tour end without starting.”
Natter Imam-ul-Haq posted: “My country is safe. And my country is safe for cricket. This is a heartbreaking moment for us as a team and for all the fans. We will keep making our efforts.”
Pakistan speedster Mohammad Amir bluntly warned NZC: “This act will bite you in future for sure.”
‘Depressing’: Cricket community reacts to abandoned series
The wider cricket community voiced its concern for Pakistan cricket following Friday’s bombshell, but many pundits reiterated that player safety was paramount.
Australian great Jason Gillespie wrote on Twitter: “New Zealand Cricket would not have made the decision to end their tour of Pakistan lightly – they have shown time and again that they are willing to do their part to promote and play our great game so I don‘t think it’s right to be critical of them.
“We are all however disappointed for Pakistan cricket, it‘s players and supporters. A wonderful cricketing country that has, for a long time, been denied consistent top level cricket. Hopefully the situation in the country improves quickly!”
Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy tweeted: “Disappointed waking up to the news of the cancellation of the Pakistan vs New Zealand series because of security issues. Over the last six years playing and visiting Pakistan has been one of the most enjoyable experiences. I’ve always felt safe. This is a massive blow to Pakistan.”
Pakistan legend Wasim Akram tweeted: “Extremely disappointed in NZ choice to abandon the #PAKvNZ tour. Pakistan has proven that our security measures for international games is of the highest order, making Pakistan one of the safest places in the world to play cricket today. I feel we are not hearing the whole story.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan posted: “Such a shame for Pakistan Cricket … These late call offs will damage the game hugely financially … Hopefully security issues can be resolved to allow cricket to be played again in Pakistan.”
The Australian’s Peter Lalor wrote: “This is a depressing turn of events. Without passing judgment on NZ, it is important to get international cricket back to Pakistan.”
Former paceman Shoaib Akhtar posted: “NZ just killed Pakistan cricket.”
Future tours to Pakistan now in doubt
The England men’s and women’s sides are scheduled to tour Pakistan next month, while Australia was planning on travelling to the Asian nation in early 2022.
However, this week’s security alert has cast doubt over future tours to Pakistan.
A spokesperson confirmed the ECB was aware of the situation: “We are liaising with our security team who are on the ground in Pakistan to fully understand the situation. The ECB Board will then decide in the next 24-48 hours whether our planned tour should proceed.”
England has not visited Pakistan since 2005 due to security concerns.
Earlier this week, England captain Heather Knight said they were waiting on a security update on their upcoming tour.
“Things are obviously changing very quickly at the moment but we‘re still in conversation or just waiting on a few things to try and work out what’s going to happen,” she said.
“So hopefully, things are deemed safe. That’s out of my hands and the team’s hands and it’s up to the people above to make those decisions but we’re in constant conversations and that will progress, I’m sure, in the next few weeks.”