Zimbabwe – Pakistan Cricket: Terrorism Fears Seed Confusion — Historic Tour Off, Then On Again

A historic visit to Pakistan by the Zimbabwe national cricket team, scheduled to begin on May 22, was thrown into doubt Friday when Zimbabwe announced that due to a May 13 terrorist attack in Pakistan, the tour was off. But just 16 minutes later, the tour was back on again.

Cricket crazy Pakistan has not hosted a visiting nation since 2009, after a March, 2009, attack by terrorists on a bus carrying the Sri Lanka cricket team as it rolled toward Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore for a match against the Pakistan team. Seven Sri Lankan cricketers were injured and six Pakistani police officers dies in the guns-and-grenades terror assault.

Other cricket-playing nations have boycotted Paksitan out of security fears ever since — a boycott that was supposed to have been broken by the African nation of Zimbabwe next week, in a five-match event that was set to be a first step in re-establishing Pakistan as a functioning member not only of the cricket community, but the world community of nations as well.

Of the 10 nations authorized to play Test Matches, Zimbabwe would have been the first to visit Pakistan since 2009. Paksitan has served as the home team for other Test playing nations, but the games were played in the United Arab Emirates.

Kenya and Afghanistan are the only two countries to have sent cricket delegations to Pakisitan for matches since 2009, but both are considered lower-tier cricket countries. Neither are authorized Test nations.

But on May 13, terrorists commandeered a bus in the Pakistan city of Karachi, massacring 43 people, mostly members of a religious minority, the Muslim sect known as Ismali.

Though Zimbabwe cricket representatives visited Pakistan earlier in the week to inspect the security situation, declaring it solid, the bus massacre Wednesday alarmed the Zimbabwe government, which instructed the country’s cricket board to call off the tour.

Zimbabwe Cricket then issued a statement doing just that, only retract the cancellation within minutes, declaring preparations for the tour “still ongoing.”

The International Cricket Council, the world governing body for the sport, has yet to give its seal of approval for the Zimbabwe tour, and the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, which represents professional cricket players across the various nations, opposes the tour.

“Security risks are still such than an international cricket tour there is not advised at present, even with the best of security plans,” said FICA boss Tony Irish.

Zimbabwe, though classified as a Test-playing nation, is ranked at 10th out of 10, and stands even lower in ranking for the other two formats of cricket, T20 and One Day — meaning that the country has trouble securing quality opponents, which is why the Zimbabweans were willing to travel to Pakistan in the first place.

[Image: Chris Hyde/Getty Images]