Zimbabwe finally confirm Pakistan tour
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) has confirmed the upcoming tour to Pakistan against the advice of the country's Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC). The board's final decision comes after three days of debate, which began on Thursday when ZC issued a press release suspending the tour and 20 minutes later sent an email retracting it. In the interim, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had told journalists that ZC had been in contact with it and had reassured that the tour would take place as scheduled.
The ICC, meanwhile, has decided not to appoint its match officials for the series after receiving a report from its security consultant. It had already made provision for the PCB to use its own umpires and match referees in such a case.
ESPNcricinfo understands that Zimbabwe's players were made to sign indemnity forms after their country's foreign affairs ministry advised that a visit to Pakistan would not be safe. As a result, the SRC would not give permission for the tour to take place unless the players were going of their own accord, as the forms now state.
Several players were hesitant to make the trip, with a few even considering pulling out, but concerns over the impact that would have on the future of their careers forced them to change their minds. All 16 squad members, which includes six returnees and one new cap, have agreed to travel to Pakistan for the two T20 and three ODI series which begins on May 22.
The visit makes Zimbabwe the first Test-playing nation to tour Pakistan since 2009, when an attack on the Sri Lankan team bus resulted in the suspension of international cricket from Pakistan. Afghanistan and Kenya have both toured Pakistan in that time, without incident.
Zimbabwe have been promised VIP security which includes armed guards, an armed vehicle escort and helicopter monitoring of their travel in Lahore, the only city they will visit. An advance delegation of ZC officials visited Pakistan in the first week of May for a thorough explanation of the measures that had been put in place to protect the players and were satisfied with what they were shown.
Despite that, the international player body FICA said their security report revealed that the risks of touring Pakistan were "unmanageable."
The series will be Zimbabwe's first post the 2015 World Cup and first without Brendan Taylor in seven years.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent