Pakistan women tour of Zimbabwe ends abruptly because of flight restrictions
Pakistan's carrier, Emirates Airlines, announced it had suspended its flight operations on the Harare-Dubai route from February 13 to 28
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) mutually agreed to call off the remainder of the Pakistan women's ongoing tour of Zimbabwe, following the announcement of the visiting side's carrier, Emirates Airlines, that it had suspended its flight operations on the Harare-Dubai route from February 13 to 28.
Pakistan won the opening 50-over match on Tuesday
and were due to play the second one-dayer on Friday. The three-match 50-over series was originally supposed to be followed by three T20Is, with the final match of the tour, held within a biosecure bubble in Harare, set for 20 February.
Pakistan were originally scheduled to leave Zimbabwe on February 21. However, following Emirates Airlines' announcement, both boards decided to end the tour after the first match with Pakistan now scheduled to leave Harare on Friday.
"It is unfortunate that the Pakistan Women's team have had to cut short their stay in Zimbabwe as a precautionary move after some unforeseen air travel complications arose, but their concern is understandable," ZC managing director Givemore Makoni said. "Nonetheless, we would like to thank the PCB for having in the first place committed to the historic tour which we have no doubt would have been memorable and a massive boost for our women's game had it not been discontinued. We hope to host them again in the near future."
PCB chief executive Wasim Khan said: "It has been a difficult decision considering Zimbabwe Cricket had put in place excellent arrangements for the series. But the decision by Emirates Airlines to suspend all flights to and from Harare from 13 February to 28 February has meant that we have to bring the squad back in the next 24 hours. We thank Zimbabwe Cricket for their understanding and support, and hope to return at some stage to complete this additional tour."
The abandonment of the tour comes as a blow especially for Zimbabwe, for whom the series opener marked their first international appearance in almost two years
. Both Zimbabwe - who do not hold ODI status - and Pakistan were using the tour for preparations for the upcoming 50-over World Cup Qualifier for the 2022 tournament proper in New Zealand. The 10-team qualifying tournament is scheduled to be held in June-July in Sri Lanka.
The Emirates Airlines' latest operations restrictions also affect if and how the Zimbabwe men's team will get to the UAE for their series against Afghanistan that starts on March 1. The men's team is due to leave Zimbabwe on February 19 and the Emirates flights are suspended until February 28. An option would be for them to fly on Ethiopian Air.
Emirates has also suspended flights to South Africa until February 28, so that's why the Pakistan women and Zimbabwe men can't fly to Johannesburg and then on from there. It is also the reason the South Test team had to charter a flight into Pakistan and the T20 had to fly on Qatar Airways to Pakistan.
On Monday, Ireland men's limited-overs tour of Zimbabwe, originally scheduled for April, was postponed indefinitely
after ZC advised Cricket Ireland against going ahead with the tour owing to the Covid-19 situation in the African nation.