New Zealand abandon Pakistan tour over security concerns: Here's what we know so far
In a massive blow to Babar Azam &Co., New Zealand pulled out of their cricket series against Pakistan on Friday (September 17) over security concerns. From PCB's statement to NZ PM Jacinda Ardern's reaction, here's what we know so far:
New Zealand pulled out of their cricket series against Pakistan on Friday (September 17) over security concerns just as the first one-day international was due to start.
'Escalation in the threat levels'
A statement was released on the official site of the New Zealand cricket team: "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."
"Arrangements are now being made for the team's departure," the statement further added.
The statement also added that New Zealand will not comment on the details of the security threat nor the updated arrangements for the departing squad.
PCB's reaction on the cancellation
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) also released a statement after New Zealand abandoned their tour.
PCB wrote: "Earlier today, the New Zealand cricket board informed us that they had been alerted to some security alert and have unilaterally decided to postpone the series. PCB and Govt of Pakistan made fool proof security arrangements for all visiting teams."
"We have assured the NZ 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."
"The security officials with the NZ team have been satisfied with security arrangements made by the Govt of Pakistan throughout their stay here,"
"PCB is willing to continue the scheduled matches. However, cricket lovers in Pakistan and around the world will be disappointed by this last minute withdrawal," the statement concluded.
Massive blow to Pakistan
New Zealand were supposed to play Pakistan on Friday (September 17) in the first of three ODIs in Rawalpindi, before moving to Lahore for a five-match T20 series.
International cricket in Pakistan was suspended in the aftermath of terror attacks against the Sri Lankan side in 2009, but has slowly revived over the past two years.
However, cancellation of the NZ tour is a massive blow to the South Asian country.
High level of security
Most of the squad arrived on Saturday and Sunday with a level of security usually reserved for visiting heads of state that included armed guards escorting their bulletproof buses.
Their Islamabad hotel, some 10 kilometres from the Rawalpindi stadium where they were due to play, has been guarded by a heavy paramilitary and police contingent.
Local media reported that the team were due to fly out on Saturday on a chartered flight.
Ardern supports the decision
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern commented on the cancellation as she said that she supports the decision that's been made and added that player safety has to be paramount.
"When I spoke with the Prime Minister of Pakistan I conveyed our thanks for taking care of the New Zealand Cricket team," Ardern said in a statement sent to Reuters.
"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 added.
'NZ will hear us at ICC'
Former Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Akhtar expressed his anger as he wrote, "NZ just killed Pakistan cricket."
PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja was also frustrated as he wrote on his Twitter account, "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."
Bomb disposal squad in stadium
Hours after New Zealand abandoned the tour, the bomb disposal squad and Pakistan security forces were spotted conducting search operations in the stadium as videos and images started getting viral on social media forums, but the severity of the threat is still unknown.
Pakistan's interior minister reacts
Pakistan's interior minister Sheik Rashid Ahmad said Pakistan's security forces had received no reports of a threat against the New Zealand cricket squad.
Ahmad told reporters that New Zealand PM Ardern had told her Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan that the cricket team could have been attacked, adding that the decision to cancel the tour was made, "unilaterally".
"This is their prerogative. Our security forces - our police, our armed forces, our SSG (Special Service Group) - none of these organizations had any reports of a threat. Nor was any threat received," he told reporters from Islamabad.
Doubts over England's tour of Pak
More disappointment could be in store for the PCB with England now reconsidering what was to be their first Pakistan visit in 16 years to play two Twenty20 matches in Rawalpindi next month, while the West Indies and Australia are also to tour in the next six months.
"We are liaising with our security team who are on the ground in Pakistan to fully understand the situation," an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) spokesperson said, adding a decision would be made in the next 24-48 hours.
The ECB Board will decide in the next few days if the tour should proceed.