Kenya arrive in Pakistan for one-dayers against A team
The Kenya cricket team landed at the Allama Iqbal international airport in Lahore amid tight security in the early hours of Wednesday. The five one-day matches between Kenya and Pakistan A is of considerable significance to the PCB, which hopes the successful staging of the series will be the first step towards convincing other nations to tour the country.
"For us we were looking to play and get match practice," Kenya coach Steve Tikolo said. "When Pakistan offered to host us, we never had hesitation in saying yes because we wanted to come to Pakistan and play cricket. I have come here twice in the past, to Karachi and Lahore, and for me it's about playing the game of cricket.
"Forget all the side issues, politics and whatever is being said. If you are a cricketer you just play cricket and we are here to play it and nothing else. We landed here this morning and until now they have looked after us very well, to say the least. So I think other countries should also come and play cricket. If you want to move world cricket forward this is what should be happening."
Pakistan has remained a no-go destination for international teams since March 3, 2009, when gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus while it was en route to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore for the third day of the second Test. Eight people were killed during the attack - and some players were injured - at Liberty roundabout, located one-and-a-half kilometres from the stadium.
The Kenyan team bus, flanked by police, was driven along the route where the attack took place. The visitors will be staying at the National Cricket Academy, adjacent to the Gaddafi Stadium, where all the matches will be played. The security measures put in place include the area being cordoned off by 14 giant gates.
The stadium and the NCA are situated inside the Nishtar Park Sports Complex, which is a public space with several restaurants and shops. During Kenya's stay, however, all the restaurants and shops will be shut for two weeks. Journalists intending to cover the series have had to get their accreditation cleared by the superintendent of police.
"It's an honour and privilege for us to be in Pakistan," Tikolo said. "I feel Pakistan has done a great favour by hosting us. We have a tournament coming up in January, a world qualifier league in Namibia and this series is a part our preparation.
"I believe the games we are going to play in the next 10 days are going to give my boys much practice and experience going into the tournament. So on behalf of Kenya Cricket, we are grateful to Pakistan and I hope this relationship goes further and becomes stronger."
Since the Lahore attack - nearly seven years ago - Pakistan have had to play their home series at offshore venues, primarily the UAE. THE PCB had tried to negotiate with the BCB about a tour but Bangladesh withdrew after committing twice.
The PCB during the time tried to negotiate with the Bangladesh Cricket Board to commit to a tour of Pakistan but the series never happened, with Bangladesh withdrawing after committing twice.
Pakistan also invited West Indies A in 2013 but the WICB refused to send the team and asked PCB to host them in UAE, which did not happen. Afghanistan, who received Associate status in the ICC only last year, had visited Pakistan several times but their fixtures were low profile. The PCB also had talks with Cricket Ireland this year but the tour was put on hold following terrorist attacks on Karachi airport in June.
The PCB had, through this year, used diplomatic channels in a bid to win back lost confidence and there were frequent visits by the European Union delegation at the PCB headquarters. Kenya is the first country from outside the region to accept an offer to tour Pakistan.
Kenya were scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on December 11 but the date was changed suddenly and the team landed a day earlier. The dates for the five matches remained unchanged, though, and they will be played between December 13 and 20.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson