ICC assessing Pakistan security
The ICC will await the assessment of an independently commissioned security report, which is currently ongoing, before deciding whether to send match officials to stand in the upcoming series between Pakistan and Zimbabwe. In the event that the recommendation is unfavourable, the PCB will be allowed to use their own officials for the two T20s and three ODIs.
The altering of the playing conditions to make provision for a country to use their own umpires and match referees was made three years ago as a special dispensation which could ensure bilateral series to go ahead even if the ICC deemed a host country unsafe. At the time Bangladesh were mulling a visit to Pakistan but that tour was put on hold because the BCB believed it was not safe to visit Pakistan, after the players wanted full-proof security guarantees from all parties.
Zimbabwe's players have not made a similarly strong demand even though they have been warned by FICA that the risk for touring parties in Pakistan was "unmanageable". In a strongly-worded statement , FICA chairman Tony Irish said his organisation is "very concerned about the safety of players and match officials."
Irish's comments came after FICA's own security company issued their report into the situation in Pakistan, which they monitor regularly. "This is a company that has worked in lot of international sports, including cricket, for a long time. They have said the risk is unacceptable and cannot be managed," Irish told ESPNcricinfo. "We would advise against touring there." Irish said FICA would continue to advise Zimbabwe's players along those lines, even though their player association is not affiliated to FICA.
There has been no official word from the Zimbabwean player body about the tour but several current cricketers and sources close to them have expressed concern about visiting Pakistan, despite assurances of safety. "What we haven't had yet is a collective voice from the players, publicly stating whether they are willing to go," one insider said. "The feeling at the moment is that even the best security plan sometimes cannot take into account all the risk."
The PCB has promised heightened security for Zimbabwe's players and have shared the details of their protection plan with the ICC. They hosted an advance delegation from Zimbabwe, which includes managing director Alistair Campbell, who was shown the accommodation, transport and other logistics being put in place for Zimbabwe's visit. Campbell will report to ZC on his return home on Thursday but has so far expressed confidence in the tour taking place as planned.
"The cricket in this country had to resume from somewhere and the forthcoming series would provide the opportunity," Campbell said. "I thank the PCB and the security agencies for all the security measures that have been put in place and we are looking forward to have an exciting series in two weeks' time."
Although Zimbabwe will be the first Test team in six years to visit Pakistan since the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009, they will not be the first group of foreign cricketers to visit the country in that time. Afghanistan played three List A matches in February 2013 while Kenya were in Pakistan last December, when they played their A side. Both series took place without incident.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent