Voice of Sport

We won’t let Pakistan be isolated, declare Zimbabwe on arrival for cricket tour

Excited Pakistan looking forward to top class performance by a strong team led by Shoaib Malik and pace man Mohammad


ZIMBABWE cricketers arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday to follow Kenya’s trail of removing that country from isolation in the game.

Zimbabwe cricket team manager Christian Chiketa told a Press Conference in Lahore that they had decided to tour Pakistan because: “We experienced isolation [before]; we won’t let it happen to Pakistan.”

Kenya

In December last year Kenya’s national cricket team arrived in Lahore amid tight security on the most high-profile series in Pakistan since a March 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team. The Kenya team played a 50 overs series which they lost 0-5 to a strong Pakistan ‘A’.

Zimbabwe will play in the same National Cricket Academy that Kenya played adjacent the Pakistan Cricket Board [PCB] headquarters at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.

Security

Chiketa expressed gratitude to the PCB and the Government of Pakistan for ensuring foolproof security arrangements for their tour.

“Cricket unites us as brothers. We hope to put up a good show against Pakistan.” Zimbabwe will play two T20 matches followed by a three-match ODI [One Day International] series.

The tour has created massive excitement among this cricket-mad nation. Pakistan also on Tuesday announced surprise recalls for former captain Shoaib Malik and pace man Mohammad Sami but left out struggling spinner Saeed Ajmal for the two Twenty20s internationals.

Return

Malik, the 33-year-old all-rounder, has not figured since a poor showing against Bangladesh in the last of his 59 T20 internationals in Dhaka in 2014.

But a return to form in the recently concluded “Super8″ domestic T20 cup has led to him being recalled, said chief selector Haroon Rasheed.

Uncapped

The 15-man squad also sees the return of batsman Umar Akmal who was left out of the Bangladesh tour for exhibiting a “poor attitude” during the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in February and March.

There are two uncapped players, 19-year-old opening batsman Noman Anwar who has been in prolific form and all-rounder and former Pakistan Under-19 captain Imad Wasim.

Militant

“We have selected a combination of youth and experience with an eye on (next year’s) World Twenty20 where we will need experience as well,” said Rasheed.

Zimbabwe will be the first Test playing team to tour Pakistan since a militant attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009, which led to the suspension of all international cricket in the country. When Zimbabwe arrived at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore early on Tuesday they were accorded massive security.

Precedent

Subhan Ahmed, the chief operating officer of PCB said that this tour will set a precedent and give other (international cricket) teams the confidence to visit Pakistan.

The two Twenty20 matches will be played in Lahore on Friday and Sunday.

Happy

On the quality of the opposition they expect to face, the Zimbabwe manager said: “Their team is stronger than us but my boys are confident that they will give their best.”

Zimbabwe captain, Elton Chigumbura, was also present at the Press conference said: “The series will be something worth remembering. This is a great opportunity for us. Cricket is our job and we are happy to face a great time like Pakistan.”

Fraternity

When asked about a short cancellation period before the tour, Chiketa said: “There were some unfortunate events happening in Karachi which unnerved us. Doubts came into the minds of our fraternity but in the end we decided to visit Pakistan.

“What we want to achieve is to be able to play cricket against our brothers. And regarding the rumours of indemnity, all players are here voluntarily.”

Mixture

On the strength of the Zimbabwe team he said: “Everything is our strength.” He further added about the tour: “It will be a good series. They [Pakistan] have got new players but we also have a good mixture. Will give the spectators a good show. We will utilise these two days to adjust to the conditions and give our best.”

Chiketa meanwhile commended PCB on efforts to make a trouble free series possible. “We had a meeting in the morning and we talked about the tremendous effort of PCB and the Pakistan Government has put in. We are grateful to them for keeping us secure.”

Concerns

There were doubts whether the five-match tour would go ahead after the massacre of 45 Shias in an attack on a bus in Karachi last week.

He said: “We have also experienced international [cricket] isolation. Teams would say, ‘we won’t visit Zimbabwe’ due to security concerns. But we won’t let that happen with our brothers here. You can’t kill the spirit of cricket.

Heroes

“Cricket is like a religion in Pakistan. We are happy that we are contributing to help the youngsters see their heroes perform for them at home.”

The view on the tour from Sri Lanka-born Zimbabwe coach Dav Whatmore was upbeat. “I appreciate the significance of this tour to Pakistan and I am happy to go,” he had told Zimbabwe radio before leaving Harare.

And in Lahore he said on Tuesday:  “The real business starts on Friday and we will be going all out to win. Very much looking forward to seeing a sell out crowd at Gaddafi Stadium!”

Squads:

PAKISTAN – Shahid Afridi (captain), Sarfraz Ahmed, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Mukhtar Ahmed, Noman Anwar, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Rizwan, Anwar Ali, Hammad Azam, Imad Wasim, Bilawal Bhatti, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Sami

ZIMBABWE – Elton Chigumbura (Captain), Sikandar Raza Butt, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Roy Kaia, Hamilton Masakadza, Christopher Mpofu, Tawanda Mupariwa, Richmond Mutumbami, Tinashe Panyangara, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Sean Williams

– Additional reporting by tribune.com.pk