Some two hours after a suicide bomb attack outside the Pearl Continental Hotel where the Pakistan and New Zealand teams were staying, and on the morning of the second Test between the two sides, the Black Caps' tour of Pakistan was abandoned. The New Zealand team will leave for home on the first available flight, later tonight.
The terrorist attack has left Pakistan cricket in a state of chaos. There are are now doubts about the forthcoming Australian tour, and the Pakistan Cricket Board may again be forced to organise their cricket offshore, as they did against the West Indies three months ago.
The Australian Cricket Board's chief executive, James Sutherland, said in Melbourne that plans to tour in August for a one-day series would be reviewed. But he thought that it was "inappropriate to lock into a position today". The Aussies are due to tour Pakistan between late August and October, either side of the ICC one-day tournament in Sri Lanka, for a one-day and Test rubber as part of the PCB Golden Jubilee celebrations.
The target of the terrorist blast was not the cricket teams, but French naval technicians working on a submarine project in Karachi. Latest reports say at least 10 French nationals are dead. The French and Pakistan Presidents have condemned the attack. The French technicians' minibus had pulled up across the road from the cricket teams' hotel.
The New Zealand and Pakistani players were about to leave their hotel for the stadium. When the blast occurred they were mostly in their rooms or at breakfast, while their transport was in a secured car park. None of the players was injured though Dayle Shackel, the Black Caps physio, received a minor cut to his forearm from flying glass.
Mike Procter - ICC Referee
Surrounded by security personnel, and flanked by the PCB Director, Brig Munawar Rana and New Zealand manager Jeff Crowe, Mike Procter, the former Proteas all-rounder who is the ICC Match Referee for the tour, announced the decision in a press briefing. "Due to the security situation, the tour has been called off after mutual consultation between the PCB, NZC and the Black Caps team manager Jeff Crowe", he said.
Procter added that despite this incident, security during the series had been 'very good', except for an isolated stone-pelting incident during the Karachi ODI. The Black Caps management, said Procter, would concur that this incident was not related to cricket.
PCB Director, Brig Munawar A Rana
Photo © CricInfo
The PCB Director Munawar Rana looked grim, obviously dismayed at the turn of events with just one Test match to go. "This indeed is unfortunate for our country and our cricket," Rana said. "We are disgusted, as it leaves us in an embarrassing position. We made the best possible security arrangements all over the country, but this incident really was beyond our control."
Rana confirmed that he had had discussions with his counterpart in Auckland, and said he understood their position. "While the PCB and cricket lovers in this country are let down by this shocking incident, we understand that the circumstances were such that they were forced to take this decision, and we endorse it. Things were not as bad here as people abroad may perceive."
Brigadier Rana refused to be drawn on whether the blast would have any implications for Australia's visit to Pakistan in October. "It is too early to talk about that," was his answer, but he was quick to add that the PCB would make all efforts to convince the teams to come over, although he knew it was going to be tough.
Meanwhile Jeff Crowe said that his players felt uneasy, and while he felt sorry for Pakistan, to him it was time to return home.
The tour has not been a happy one for the Black Caps, comprehensively beaten in all three one-day Internationals and suffering their worst-ever defeat in the first Test at Lahore.
This is the third time that New Zealand have abandoned a tour in South Asia for security reasons. In 1987 they called off their tour of Sri Lanka after a blast killed 100 people in Colombo. In 1992, another bomb went off outside their hotel in Sri Lanka and that too elicited the same reaction.