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PAK TO SQUARE ONE; Pakistan’s cricketing revival could be impacted again as New Zealand call off tour citing security concerns

11:53 PM Sep 17, 2021 | FPJ News Service

Mumbai: Ramiz Raja, this is not an opening over you were prepared for. These are your early days at office as Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief, but New Zealand’s decision to not tour your country must have drained the blood out of your face. And for sure, it has ripped the soul out of Pakistan cricket. Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Afridi remind us of Pakistan cricket in the 90s.

Proud, galloping men tossing up riches of their skills. We would feel an incandescent love for the game when ‘that Pakistan’ took the field. As Indians, we would often grudge what your quicks had to offer. Back then, Jasprit Bumrah was not even an idea.

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Your cricket hasn’t been the same in the aftermath of the 2009 militant attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore. The present lot does promise so much. If a 12-year-old in Karachi is demonstrating adoration for the bat – not quite a regular thing in Pakistan cricket – Babar could well be the reason.

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Restoration of international cricket in Pakistan – the PSL games and tours of West Indies, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and South Africa were organised without a security hitch – offered a glimpse of a new dawn.

Now, with New Zealand calling off their limited-overs tour of Pakistan, it’s all rickety yet again.

New Zealand has reasons to call off the tour, for it couldn’t have ignored its government’s advice. But where does this leave Pakistan cricket?

The repercussions are hard to miss. It has already put a cloud over England’s tour of Pakistan next month. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has given itself “the next 24-48 hours” to decide whether the tour should proceed as planned. New Zealand Cricket (NZC) and the ECB have availed of the services of the same security consultants, ESI Risk, to advise on such matters.

To say that other teams will cheerfully pack their suitcases at the thought of touring Pakistan is wishful thinking.

Essentially, it means a body-blow to Pakistan’s attempt to completely reinstate international cricket in the country.

A limp Pakistan is not what international cricket can afford especially at a time when only four teams – New Zealand, India, England and Australia – comprise the top rung of the sport’s hierarchy.

During his tenure as skipper, Misbah-ul-Haq held the view that given that Pakistan never enjoyed the privilege of home advantage, they had actually overachieved.

Waqar Younis lamented how Pakistan’s budding cricketers were deprived of the joy of watching their heroes live. Or what about those eight-year-olds who couldn’t experience the electric thoughts upon watching a match at the Gaddafi Stadium and missed a chance to create their own cricketing fantasies in their sleep?

Of course, it’s not this sport’s domain to assure fool-proof security anywhere in the world.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s role here will obviously come into sharp focus. He burned telephone lines speaking to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to assure Pakistan was safe to tour. But if a PM and a man of such a high cricketing station has failed to convince his counterpart, then Pakistan has deep reasons to worry.

Cricket’s compass now points to the UAE where the IPL and the T20 World Cup will be staged. UAE had become Pakistan’s camp for all its home fixtures, almost like its adopted home. A return to the desert seems very much a possibility now.

What Pakistan had to say...

'Which world is NZ living in?' PCB chief Ramiz

kARACHI: The newly-appointed Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, Ramiz Raja on Friday lashed out at the New Zealand Cricket for abandoning their international series at the last minute after claiming to have received a security alert from their government back home. Raja warned NZC that the matter will be taken up before the International Cricket Council (ICC). He took to Twitter to express his anguish. "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," Raja tweeted.

New Zealand just killed Pakistan cricket: Shoaib Akhtar

RAWALPINDI: Former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar on Friday came down heavily on New Zealand for abandoning their tour of Pakistan and said the team just killed Pakistan cricket. Taking to Twitter, Akhtar wrote: "NZ just killed Pakistan cricket." He went on to add: "Following points for New Zealand to remember: 9 Pakistanis were killed in the Christchurch attack. Pakistan stood strong with New Zealand. Pakistan toured New Zealand in the worst of Covid circumstances regardless of the crude treatment by NZ authorities on that tour.

Extremely disappointed on the abrupt postponement: Babar Azam

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan captain Babar Azam on Friday expressed disappointment after New Zealand cricket announced they are abandoning their tour of Pakistan due to New Zealand government security alert.

"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!" Babar Azam tweeted. "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 .. !!" wrote former England captain Michael Vaughan on his twitter handle.

England to decide on tour in next 48 hours

Hours after New Zealand cancelled its cricket tour of Pakistan, England's scheduled tour to the Asian nation was thrown into doubt with the ECB saying that it will assess the ground situation in the strife-torn country and make a decision on the series in the next 48 hours.

New Zealand decided to pull its team out of Pakistan just ahead of the first ODI after its cricket board received a security threat.

England are scheduled to travel to Rawalpindi in October for two Twenty20 Internationals, in what will be their first visit to Pakistan since 2005.

"We're aware of New Zealand's decision to pull out of the Pakistan tour due to a security alert. We are liaising with our security team who are on the ground in Pakistan to fully understand the situation," the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said in a statement.

"The ECB Board will then decide in the next 24-48 hours whether our planned tour should proceed," the statement read further.

The cancellation of New Zealand tour is a big setback to the revival of international cricket in Pakistan.

Although some international cricket and Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches have been held in the country but major Test nations are yet to travel to Pakistan for full-fledged tours.

West Indies are scheduled to travel to Pakistan later this year. Australia are also due to tour Pakistan early next year.

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