LAHORE: International cricket is all set to return to Pakistan as the Zimbabwe team will arrive in the country on May 19.
The tour will mark the return of international cricket to Pakistan since 2009 and strict security arrangements are in place to avoid an untoward incident.
The Gaddafi Stadium where all matches of the tour will be played has been closed to the public. Police and officials from the Pakistan Cricket Board have been deployed at all gates of the stadium. Even police officials who are not deployed as part of the security protocol have been prohibited from entering the stadium. Only designated gates will be used for entry into the stadium.
The area around the venue will be cordoned off, with various security checkpoints for fans, and paramilitaries will watch the area around the clock with constant surveillance from rooftops and helicopters.
The players will not be allowed to leave their hotel without security and their movements will be restricted within the stadium.
“It is our first step towards the goal of reviving international cricket and we will leave nothing to chance to make this tour safe and successful,” PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan told AFP.
For players like Umar Akmal, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq — all of whom have played more than 50 internationals — it will be their first chance to represent Pakistan at home.
Tickets are not yet sold out, given the uncertainty surrounding whether the tour would go ahead, but officials are reporting a surge in demand.
“I am going to all matches,” said Salman Ahmed from the town of Gaggu Mundi. “I last watched a match was in Multan in 2008, so it has been a long time now.”
Historic moment for Pakistan
Former skippers Younis Khan and Muhammad Hafeez said the Zimbabwe team’s tour was a historic moment for Pakistan and a reason to celebrate.
“Business increases and children are motivated when international cricket is played in the country,” Younis said while speaking with Geo News. The former skipper further said young players who became part of the squad in 2009 had never had the opportunity to play at home.
“You can only become a hero and big player when you perform at home.”
Hafeez told Geo News that the people of Pakistan had missed international cricket. “I am extremely happy that this (Zimbabwe) series will be played in Pakistan. Pakistan is a safe country and we will make sure there are no shortcomings in hospitality.”