Australia flew to Pakistan on Sunday for their first cricket tour in nearly a quarter century – and in a high security bubble that will envelope them throughout their six-week stay.
Lead drummer Steve Smith posted a photo on Twitter of the 35-person Australian tour inside the cabin of their charter flight after landing in Islamabad. Local authorities have confirmed their arrival.
Pakistan has struggled to attract visitors since a fatal terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan visiting team bus in 2009. Australia pulled out of a tour five years earlier after a suicide bombing at a church from Lahore.
They last played in Pakistan in 1998, winning the three-Test series 1-0 and shutting out the hosts in all three one-day internationals.
Having been forced to play their home matches abroad – mainly in the United Arab Emirates – Pakistan appear to have reassured international cricket authorities last year with New Zealand and England scheduled to tour.
But the Black Caps left in a hurry in September minutes before the start of their first game, citing security fears, and England postponed tours for their men’s and women’s teams shortly afterwards.
The decisions infuriated Pakistani cricket authorities, who felt they had done everything possible to ensure safety and security.
They say they leave nothing to chance, with nearly 4,000 police and military personnel guarding the team hotel in Islamabad and the cricket stadium in Rawalpindi.
Protection “at the level of the head of state”
“The team will receive the ‘head of state security’,” a Home Office spokesman said. AFP.
“Such arrangements are only made for high-level foreign delegations, [and] the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Roads will be blocked as the Australians make the 15 kilometer journey, with their team bus expected to be followed by army helicopters.
Snipers will be positioned on the buildings surrounding the stadium, while nearby shops and offices have been ordered to close on match days, the Home Office said.
Similar arrangements will be in place for matches in Karachi and Lahore.
Australians will be confined to their quarters for 24 hours after arriving for Covid testing, before intense training ahead of the first test from March 4.
“We’ve gotten to a place where everyone jumping on the plane is comfortable with where everything is seated,” Australian skipper Pat Cummins said before the team’s departure from Sydney.
“It was a very thorough job that the security and logistics teams worked on.”
More than half of Pakistan’s 220 million people weren’t even born when Australia last toured – the median age is 22.8 – but stadiums are expected to be packed as the country exits relatively unscathed from the Omicron stage of the Covid outbreak.
The teams will play three Tests, three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and a Twenty20 match before the Australians depart on April 6.
Pakistan is set to host eight Tests, 11 ODIs and 13 Twenty20 internationals over the next 13 months.
Players feel ‘incredibly safe’, says Cummins
Australian Test captain Pat Cummins, in a virtual press conference, said the players felt “incredibly safe” after arriving and looking forward to spreading their aggressive brand of cricket.
“We were treated very well by the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board).
“On arrival, there was a lot of security. We were straight off the plane and straight to the hotel.
“We have a pretty good setup here and we will be confined to the hotel except for games and training.”
The 28-year-old ruled out any apprehension among his teammates and said they were focused on the tour.
“It’s heartwarming and we’re really lucky to be surrounded by so many professionals,” Cummins said.
“There’s a lot of stuff around that might be a little different to what we’re used to, but we know it’s been taken care of so we can really have fun here…
“Pakistan is an amazing cricketing nation. We feel lucky to be able to come back here after an entire generation didn’t have the chance to play cricket here.
Cummins oversaw the Ashes’ Australian 4-1 game against England in his first series in charge and the speedster was confident they could be as assertive against Pakistan captain Babar Azam’s side.
“I really hope so. I was really proud of the way we played throughout the Ashes summer at home in Australia, and now it’s the challenge to carry on and be just as relentless in the game. a tour abroad.
The tourists have brought in former Pakistani-born Australian international Fawad Ahmed as a spin bowling consultant to improve their preparation.
“He has a wealth of experience here and he knows the sites very well and is always great fun for the group,” Cummins said.