Shaharyar Khan, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, said that he is in constant touch with his Zimbabwean counterpart, Wilson Manase, in a bid to save this month’s limited-overs series – Pakistan’s first against a Test-playing nation since 2009.
“I have talked to Zimbabwe Cricket chairman and told him that cricket fans in Pakistan were awaiting his team eagerly. They have been inquiring about the matches and it would be a great setback for the sport if the tour is called off,” Shaharyar said.
“I have convinced him to reconsider the move to abandon the tour and now Zimbabwe Cricket will let us know about their decision (over the series) by lunchtime tomorrow. I’m hoping that they will take a positive decision,” he added.
The PCB chief also told Manase that on Thursday morning he had a fruitful meeting with top Punjab government officials who have assured the Board that the Zimbabweans will get fool-proof security during their stay in Lahore. Zimbabwe were scheduled to land in Lahore on May 19 for the brief series.
Shaharyar and the PCB hit top gear to save the series against Zimbabwe after reports from Harare said that the tourists have decided to pull out of the trip because of the deadly terrorist attack in Karachi on Wednesday.
The Zimbabweans pulled out of this month’s cricket tour to Pakistan and then retracted their decision within 16 minutes in a bizarre turnaround.
Zimbabwe Cricket initially released a statement saying that a decision had been reached not to tour on the advice of the country’s supreme sports regulatory authority, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC).
The SRC had previously cited concerns over the safety of the touring party.
But after the news release was issued, the statement was withdrawn and Zimbabwe Cricket spokesman Lovemore Banda said that discussions were still on-going.
“At this time the tour has not been suspended. The executive and board of Zimbabwe Cricket are still in discussions,” he said.
Banda would not put a time frame on when a decision would be made, saying only that it would be announced “as soon as the discussions are finalised”.
Zimbabwe were due to be the first Test-playing nation to tour Pakistan since a 2009 gun attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore left seven players injured and eight Pakistanis dead.
Pakistan has been desperate to regain its status as an international cricket venue, but security concerns rose further this week when gunmen attacked a passenger bus and killed at least 43 people in Karachi.
“The decision not to tour at this time has been taken after considering the advice from the country’s supreme sports regulatory authority, the Sports and Recreational Commission (SRC),” Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) said in its initial statement.
“We have consulted on the security situation in Pakistan… and have been advised that it would not be safe for the team to travel to Pakistan,” Charles Nhemachena, the SRC director general wrote to the cricket union on Thursday.
The decision came after an advance team visited Pakistan last week and expressed confidence that the tour would go ahead.
Zimbabwe this week announced its 16-man squad, but a private daily paper on Thursday said the team should not be put in danger.
“One thing is very clear; Pakistan is not a safe destination to travel to,” the Daily News said.
“Pakistan is on fire at the moment.”
The PCB has promised head-of-state- level security arrangements for Zimbabwe with 3,000 policemen guarding the visiting players at all time.
Shaharyar said he has invited heads of other cricket boards to witness the series in a bid to inspire others to tour.
“We have invited the heads of all Test playing countries and two of them have confirmed their visit while some of them have excused (themselves).”