LAHORE (Web Desk/APP) – The plane carrying Zimbabwe’s cricket team landed in Lahore for a high-stakes tour of Pakistan heralding an end to a prolonged six years of Pakistan’s isolation.
Earlier, Pakistan completed arrangements for a rousing reception of the visitors with cricket buffs raring to welcome the Zimbabweans as a part of restoration of international cricket at home ground.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials and Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada welcomed the visitors who flew into Lahore on board Emirates flight 622.
Khanzada hoped that this tour will open a chain of visits to Pakistan by international sides, saying, “I hope several other world teams will visit Pakistan after Zimbabwe.”
“We will make this series an astounding success,” he voiced his resolve adding fool-proof security arrangements were made on this occasion.
— PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) May 18, 2015
The Zimbabwean team will remain in the country from May 19 to June 1 to play a series consisting of three one-day internationals and two Twenty20 amid massive security at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
Later, the visitors were transported to a local hotel amid heightened security with 60- vehicle security detail aided by aerial surveillance by helicopter. The entire route was cordoned off. Snipers were stationed at high-rises all through the routes.
Zimbabwe earlier left Harare for Dubai, national cricket association spokesman Lovemore Banda said Monday.
“The team has left (Harare),” Banda told AFP. “They are going (to Pakistan) via Dubai.”
There were doubts whether the five-match tour would go ahead after the massacre of 45 minority Ismailis in an attack on a bus in Karachi last week.
It is the first tour of Pakistan by a Test-level team since seven Sri Lankan cricketers were wounded during a 2009 attack by militants in Lahore.
Since the attack on the Sri Lankans, Pakistan have staged ‘home’ matches in the United Arab Emirates.
“I appreciate the significance of this tour to Pakistan and I am happy to go,” Zimbabwe coach Dav Whatmore told Zimbabwe radio before leaving for Pakistan.
But the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA) said their security advisors were against the tour.
Zimbabwe are set to become the first Test team to tour Pakistan since militants attacked the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009, killing eight and injuring nine including six visiting cricketers.
Both sides will play two Twenty20 internationals on May 22 and 24, followed by three one-day internationals on May 26, 29 and 31 — all in Lahore.