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'There was no way we could stay in the country' - New Zealand Cricket chief David White

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Published in Cricket
Sunday, 19 September 2021 03:45

New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said "there was no way" the New Zealand team could have stayed on in Pakistan given the security advice they had received. NZC had made the decision to abandon the tour of Pakistan - which comprised three ODIs and five T20Is - minutes before the first match on Friday in Rawalpindi citing security concerns.

New Zealand's touring party have now reached Dubai, after leaving Islamabad on a charter flight on Saturday. The contingent of 34 players and support staff will undergo a 24-hour period of self-isolation in their Dubai hotel. Of this group, 24 will return to New Zealand over the next week, as flights and Managed Isolation Quarantine rooms in New Zealand become available. The rest of the touring party will remain in the UAE and link up with New Zealand's T20 World Cup squad, ahead of that tournament which is set to begin on October 17.

"We appreciate this has been a terribly difficult time for the PCB and wish to pass on our sincere thanks to chief executive Wasim Khan and his team for their professionalism and care," White said in a statement.

"What I can say is that we were advised this was a specific and credible threat against the team. We had several conversations with New Zealand government officials before making the decision and it was after informing the PCB of our position that we understand a telephone discussion was conducted between the respective Prime Ministers. Unfortunately, given the advice we'd received, there was no way we could stay in the country."

NZC said in a statement that while the general tenor of the threat was immediately shared with the PCB, White reiterated that specific details could not, and will not, be disclosed - privately or publicly. White said that while New Zealand were initially comfortable with the decision to play in Pakistan - their first tour of the country in 18 years - based on comprehensive assessments of the security situation, "everything changed on Friday".

"We went through security checks and we were ensured of the high level of security that was to be provided," he said. "And also of the opinion of the number of teams that have toured here recently - South Africa a few months ago, West Indies, Zimbabwe.. so we made the decision to tour there. On Friday it all changed.

"The advice changed, the threat level changed and, as a consequence, we took the only responsible course of action possible. I'm comfortable with the decision we made."

The PCB remains unhappy at the lack of information that was shared with them - White said the nature of the threat will not be disclosed - with one official saying that opened the door to any side pulling out of any tour without ever having to provide a credible explanation.

It intends to open up discussions with NZC about the financial fallout from the abandonment, including costs of security, accommodation, travel arrangements, and TV and broadcasting schedules. At his press conference, White said NZC would have discussions about playing the three ODIs and five T20Is at a future date, saying it was too early to talk about where they might be played. The PCB, however, will likely insist on a more unilateral approach as to the location of those games, and when they happen.

White said that the relationship between the boards will be worked through over the next few weeks. "For many years we've had a close relationship with Pakistan cricket," White said. "We'll work through this over the next few weeks and months. They're a passionate cricketing nation and I understand that. But on the advice we've received from the government that we had a specific credible threat to the safety of the team. The safety was paramount. We had no choice but to abandon the tour."

ESPNcricinfo had earlier reported that the decision had led to mounting frustration within the Pakistan board, as well as fears of how it could impact their calendar this season and beyond. In the heat of the moment, PCB chairman Ramiz Raja even tweeted that New Zealand will hear from the PCB at the ICC. The abandonment of the tour had also led to widespread anger among fans in Pakistan.

It has plunged a busy Pakistan schedule into doubt and disarray, with the England men and women's tours scheduled next month the most pressing concern. The ECB did say on Friday that a decision would be announced in 24 to 48 hours. The PCB are, in the meantime, in contact with the ECB to reassure them of the safety arrangements in place for what would be the country's first tour to Pakistan since 2005-06.

Next year in February-March, Australia are due to tour for the first time in over 20 years, but the status of that, even at this early distance, looks shaky. New Zealand women are scheduled to visit this season and the men's side are also supposed to visit again in 2022-23, for a series of Tests and ODIs.

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