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Zimbabwe play empathy card as tour officially begins

Former ZC managing director Ozias Bvute, the head of the visiting delegation in Lahore, said the decision to tour Pakistan was made to break their isolation from cricket and foster brotherhood

Pakistani security officers monitor the area around Gaddafi Cricket Stadium, Lahore, May 18, 2015

Security officials monitor the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, the venue for all of Zimbabwe's matches  •  AFP

An understanding of the impact isolation from international cricket can have on a country and a desire to improve bilateral relations between the two boards were what motivated Zimbabwe to tour Pakistan, according to Ozias Bvute, the former Zimbabwe Cricket managing director who is heading the visiting delegation.
The Zimbabwe squad and its accompanying officials arrived in Lahore early on Tuesday and they had their first training session at the Gaddafi Stadium later in the day. Zimbabwe will play two T20 internationals and three ODIs against Pakistan between May 19 and 31, the first international matches to be held in the country since gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus on March 3, 2009.
"For many years, as you know, Zimbabwe was isolated," Bvute said at the Gaddafi Stadium, referring to ZC's self-imposed isolation from Test cricket between September 2005 and August 2011. "We understand the politics of isolation. We therefore say isolation is not the right way. In order for brothers to relate to one another we must break the barriers that exists between us and we must interact.
"We have come here to strengthen the bilateral relations between our two nations. Cricket is bigger than any one of us and therefore we hope by coming here we have shown that cricket is and will be the winner. We look forward to an exciting two weeks, my team and I are raring to go. We are here to play cricket, we are here to uphold the spirit of brotherhood, which makes up the cricket fraternity."
Bvute denied reports that said Zimbabwe's players were hesitant to tour Pakistan, and that they had to sign indemnity forms because the government's Sports and Recreation Commission had not cleared the trip. "The position was that our players were offered the opportunity to voluntarily come to Pakistan," he said. "They accepted the position and that's why we are here with a full-strength team.
"We obviously weighed the pros and the cons of what we wanted to achieve. And what we wanted to achieve is to come and play cricket against our brothers. Therefore we are here to affirm the position that regardless of various opinions that are being proffered throughout the world as to why we are here, we are here to play cricket and we will play cricket. No player has signed an indemnity form and they are all here voluntarily.
"The system of sports in Zimbabwe is that the Sports and Recreation Commission governs us. SRC wrote a letter to ZC and indicated that the final decision as to whether the Zimbabwe team tours Pakistan solely rests on ZC. Our chairman Wilson Manase took the decision and we agreed to tour Pakistan. The board and players were supportive of his decision and ultimately we are here and this is the testimony of the fact that cricket is the ultimate winner."
The Zimbabwe delegation comprises 28 people - 16 players - and is being given security befitting a guest of the state. Their motorcade included patrolling vehicles and thousands of policemen have been deployed across the city. The route between the hotel and the stadium is seven kilometres long and the team will be escorted through it with no traffic. Bvute said he was pleased with the arrangements.
"No one can ever guarantee your security anywhere in the world. Certainly the risk profile differs from country to country. Conditions will always not be the same and the principal is that we like to play cricket, we have come as brothers, our intentions are not political and our intentions are that cricket fans and Pakistan people will see good cricket."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson