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Zimbabwe happy to contribute to Pakistan revival

LAHORE: A top Zimbabwe cricket official Sunday expressed delight in contributing to the revival of international cricket in Pakistan after a six-year hiatus, hoping it will open more doors for their hosts.

Zimbabwe became the first Test team to tour Pakistan since terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in March 2009, suspending all international cricket in the country.

Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) managing director Alistair Campbell said his country decided to play two Twenty20 and three one-day internationals after their intelligence work.

“I am glad that we have been able to make a small part in trying to get Pakistan cricket back on track,” Campbell told media on the sidelines of third and final one-day international in Lahore.

“We did our due intelligence work, there were guys who said that ‘how can you go?’ and that ‘you are putting lives of the players at risk’ but we assessed the security and we were sure it will be a successful and safe tour.”

Pakistan deployed 6,000 policemen, beefed up to 10,000 after Tuesday’s explosion of a gas cylinder, with thorough check-ups of the fans at various points.

Campbell, 42, said perceptions about Pakistan will change after the successful series.

‘Change perceptions’

“I am sure this tour will open more doors and change the perceptions about Pakistan,” said Campbell who played 60 Tests and 188 one-day internationals for Zimbabwe besides leading them.

Campbell admitted it was a tough decision to travel to Pakistan after a deadly bus attack which left 45 people killed a week before the team’s arrival.

“It was a tough and topsy turvy thing. Pakistan invited us in good faith and they have done and taken all the necessary security precautions, beefed up the security better than they provided before.

“We were told that this is better than given to a state head and I think when there was a bus shooting in Karachi then it put a spanner in the work because it wasn’t an ideal situation to tour,” said Campbell.

After the Karachi killings, ZC initially suspended the tour before rescinding their decision.

“At that time we were in discussions on whether to tour or not but obviously credit to the ZC president Wilson Manase and Shaharyar Khan of Pakistan Cricket Board who took the matter to the highest level and made sure that we tour and security given is perfect.

“The players were also in an ebb and flow, whether to go or not but in the end we made a commitment and were happy with the security plan and that we will be well looked after.”

Campbell said the excitement of fans in Pakistan was exemplary as they packed the 27,000 capacity Gaddafi Stadium in the two Twenty20 and one-day matches.

“It’s heart warming and more than anybody expected, to be honest. People embraced the Zimbabwean players and the hospitality is outstanding and it’s the first time that in the sub-continent that people were chanting for the opposition.

“The players have felt welcome and the hospitality is outstanding. From the moment the Zimbabweans touched down to when they leave tonight there were utmost precaution taken without compromising too much on their freedom.”

Campbell said the series will strengthen relations between Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

“This series will strengthen our bilateral relations with Pakistan and they are due to tour us in August this year and this tour will go a long way in our relationship.”

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