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Kiwis leave for Pakistan one-day series

A New Zealand team appeased by ICC security assurances left on Wednesday for Pakistan to resume a tour twice previously diverted by terrorist acts.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2003 01:48 IST
Steve McMorran (AP)
Steve McMorran (AP)

A New Zealand cricket team appeased by International Cricket Council security assurances left on Wednesday for Pakistan to resume a tour twice previously diverted by terrorist acts.

The team, without captain Stephen Fleming and four leading players, will be surrounded on its 12-day venture by intense security typically reserved for visiting heads of state.

ICC chairman Ehsan Mani, who was born in Pakistan, on Tuesday assured New Zealand the security surrounding its tour would be "second to none." He said the players could take assurance that recent tours to Pakistan by Bangladesh and South Africa had concluded without incident.

New Zealand first left for Pakistan on a tour encompassing Test and one-day matches on Sept. 11, 2001. It was in transit in Singapore when terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States.

The team was immediately recalled and New Zealand and Pakistan were left at loggerheads over the viability of a revised tour. Pakistan, increasingly shunned as a touring destination, insisted New Zealand had contractual obligation to play its scheduled matches.

A compensatory tour in May last year ended when a bomb destroyed a bus outside the team hotel in Karachi, killing 14 people including 12 foreign workers. No one with the team was harmed.

New Zealand players had been minutes from leaving the hotel — some had already gathered in the lobby, a short distance from the blast center — when the bomb exploded. Others, still in their rooms, were sprayed by flying glass.

Fleming said the few minutes that passed before all members of the touring party were accounted for were the longest of his life. Other players, traumatized by the sight of wounded victims of the bombing, received counseling on their return to New Zealand. The tour was again abandoned.

New Zealand and Pakistan finally agreed a schedule of five one-day matches to be played this month, at the conclusion of a New Zealand tour to India.

The current tour again came close to abandonment when an e-mail was recently received by a New Zealand diplomatic post, threatening the team's safety.

It is understood the e-mail, sent from within Pakistan, linked its threat to the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

New Zealand Cricket delayed the tour's start while it reassessed security with the assistance of the ICC and the Pakistan Cricket Board. The tour is now starting more than a week later than previously scheduled.

Four New Zealand players who toured India — Craig McMillan, Lou Vincent, Ian Butler and Scott Styris — elected not to make the tour because of safety concerns.

Fleming withdrew because of an abdominal injury suffered in Pakistan while international regulars Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey and Jacob Oram, who will tour, are affected by a virus contracted in India.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said Tuesday the international body accepted the right of individual players to refuse to tour because of personal security concerns.

The New Zealand team which will now tour includes a number of players new to international cricket. Batsmen Craig Cumming and Hamish Marshall, all-rounder Matthew Walker, bowlers Tama Canning, Kerry Walmsley and Michael Mason are all new to the New Zealand team.

The first one-day match will be played at Lahore Saturday.

First Published: Nov 26, 2003 11:00 IST