Australia travel to Pakistan on Sunday for their first cricket tour in almost a quarter of a century – and in the high-security bubble that will surround them during their six-week stay.
Senior batsman Steve Smith tweeted a photo after falling into the cabin of a 35-member Australian tour charter flight in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. Local officials confirmed his arrival.
After the horrific terrorist attack on a Sri Lankan bus in 2009, Pakistan struggled to attract visitors. Australia ended its tour five years ago after a suicide attack in a church in Lahore.
They last played in Pakistan in 1998, winning the three-Test series 1-0 and beating the hosts in three one-day internationals.
After being forced to play their home games abroad – mainly in the UAE – last year, Pakistan assured international cricket that a tour of New Zealand and England was planned.
But the Black Caps hastily left minutes before the start of their first match in September, citing security concerns, and England soon shelved both the men’s and women’s tours.
The decisions angered Pakistan cricket officials who believed they had done everything possible to ensure safety and security.
He says he is missing no opportunity, with around 4,000 police and military personnel guarding the team’s hotel in Islamabad and a cricket stadium in the garrison town near Rawalpindi.
“Head of state-level security
A spokesman for Pakistan’s interior ministry told AFP that the squad would be led by a government official.
“Such arrangements are made only for high-level foreign delegations, (and) the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan.”
Roads will be closed as the Australians travel 15 kilometers (11 miles), their team accompanied by buses and the shadow of army helicopters.
The Interior Ministry said snipers would be deployed near the buildings around the stadium, and nearby shops and offices were ordered to close on match days.
Similar arrangements will be made for matches in Karachi and Lahore.
The Aussies will be quartered for 24 hours after arriving for the Cove Test ahead of rigorous training ahead of the first Test, which starts on March 4.
“We’ve reached a point where everyone on the plane is comfortable,” Australia captain Pat Cummins said before the team left Sydney.
“It really was a lot of work that went through the security and logistics teams.”
More than half of Pakistan’s population of 220 million were not even born when Australia last visited – the average age is 22.8 – but stadiums are expected to be packed as the country grapples with the epidemic. Omicron was relatively safe from the scene.
The teams will play three tests, three Odis and a Twenty20 match before leaving Australia on April 6.
Pakistan will play eight tests, 11 ODIs and 13 T20 Internationals in the next 13 months.