Cricket officials in Pakistan have left left furious after New Zealand cancelled their tour or the nation just hours before play was set to begin.
New Zealand cited a security alert issued by their own government as the reason behind their last-minute withdrawal, which has been poorly received by cricket fans in the host country.
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Both teams were staying at the same hotel when New Zealand Cricket officials received word from their government that the team faced an increased risk of being attacked in Pakistan.
Despite declining to reveal the nature of the security advice they had given to the team, Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had told counterpart Imran Kahn, himself a former cricketer, that players risked being attacked outside the stadium.
Khan, who is on a government visit of Tajikistan, informed Ardern "we have one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team."
Ahmed said he had no information about a security threat against the New Zealanders, and backed Khan at a news conference.
"He told her that the law and order situation is the best in our country and we give a guarantee that there is no security problem here, there is no security threat," Ahmed said.
"But the prime minister of New Zealand said that the issue is not the threat but we have such information that when the team goes out it can come under some attack, so they have unilaterally cancelled their tour."
The security concern has the Pakistan hosts mystified.
The sudden cancellation was an extremely unpopular move among cricket fans, particularly those from Pakistan.
Such a terrible, terrible shame. https://t.co/ScdMU4xHKh
— Scott Bailey (@ScottBaileyAAP) September 17, 2021
Dreadful news for Pakistan. New Zealand's players had no choice but to leave after the government advice.
Very real fear this sets back Pakistan hosting international cricket back years
— Tim Wigmore (@timwig) September 17, 2021
Pakistan have travelled the world, of course to meet their financial needs, but travelled the world nonetheless to help other countries keep international cricket going during a global pandemic – yet other countries as ever are quick to dump Pakistan without hesitation#PAKvNZ
— Kamran Abbasi (@KamranAbbasi) September 17, 2021
New Zealand Cricket said in a statement: "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 Black Caps will not continue with the tour," New Zealand Cricket said in a statement.
"Arrangements are now being made for the team's departure."
Backlash after New Zealand abandons Pakistan cricket series
The Pakistan Cricket Board said together with the Pakistan government they "made foolproof security arrangements for all visiting teams. We have assured the New Zealand Cricket of the same."
PCB chairman Ramiz Raja hinted they will protest to the International Cricket Council against NZC's unilateral decision.
"Crazy day it has been! Feel so sorry for the fans and our players," Raja tweeted. "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."
NZC chief executive David White said it was not possible to continue the tour given the advice he was receiving.
"I understand this will be a blow for the PCB, who have been wonderful hosts, but player safety is paramount and we believe this is the only responsible option," he said.
In May 2002, New Zealand abandoned their Test series in Pakistan after a suicide bomb attack outside their Karachi hotel.
Pakistan was a no go zone for international cricket teams for a decade after terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009.
The ambush killed seven people and injured several Sri Lankan cricketers, including Thilan Samaraweera, who is among the New Zealand tour management as the batting coach.
Since international teams resumed touring Pakistan in 2019, this is the first instance of a team having to abandon while in the country.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam expressed his disappointment at the cancellation, while former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar tweeted: "NZ just killed Pakistan cricket."
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