Yesterday was a dark day for Pakistan cricket when New Zealand unilaterally decided to abandon the Pakistan series over “security threats” just minutes before the first One-Day International (ODI) match was about to begin in Rawalpindi. This decision was taken without sharing any details of the security threat with the host country. New Zealand was visiting Pakistan after 18 years.

Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Ramiz Raja tweeted how frustrating it was and said that New Zealand will “hear us at ICC”. Prime Minister Imran Khan also spoke with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern but could not convince her to reconsider this unilateral decision. “When I spoke with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, I conveyed our thanks for taking care of the New Zealand Cricket team. I know how disappointing it will be for everyone that the game hasn’t gone ahead, but we totally support the decision that’s been made. Player safety has to be paramount,” PM Ardern told Reuters.

New Zealand’s decision is a huge blow and setback to Pakistan cricket. The terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in March 2009 left Pakistan cricket in chaos for years. There were no international cricket matches in Pakistan and it took us many years to convince smaller cricketing nations to gradually but surely bring back cricket to Pakistan. Former PCB Chairman Najam Sethi managed to convince teams and international players to visit Pakistan. Our security forces, police, cricket management, and many others made sure that all visiting teams and players were given fool-proof security, even if it meant shutting down cities.

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Cricket fans did not complain about the inconvenience either because they understood how vital it was to make the visiting teams feel safe so as to make sure that international cricket properly returns to Pakistan. This year was going to be extremely important with New Zealand and English cricket teams’ tours. Next year, Australia is also supposed to tour Pakistan. Now – with New Zealand abandoning its tour – the England tour is also up in the air for another 24 hours as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said yesterday that due to the security threat to New Zealand, the ECB will “decide in the next 24-48 hours whether our planned tour should proceed”.

PCB officials told Dawn that Pakistan will suffer financial losses in millions. And it is not just about the financial loss but the loss of so many years of efforts made by the security officials, PCB, Pakistani players, and many other unsung heroes who made sure that cricket comes back to Pakistan. Pakistani cricket fans are disappointed, angry and depressed, and rightly so. We know that Pakistan cricket will overcome this. But it hurts. Pakistan Zindabad!