CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Zimbabwe pulled out of this month’s historic cricket tour to Pakistan and then retracted their decision in a bizarre 16-minute turnaround on Thursday.
Zimbabwe Cricket initially released a statement saying a decision had been reached not to tour on the advice of the country’s supreme sports regulatory authority, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC).
The SRC had previously cited concerns over the safety of the squad for the limited-overs tour.
However, after the news release was issued, the statement was withdrawn and Zimbabwe Cricket spokesman Lovemore Banda told Reuters that discussions were still on-going.
“At this time the tour has not been suspended. The executive and board of Zimbabwe Cricket are still in discussions,” he said.
Banda would not put a time frame on when a decision would be made, saying only that it would be announced “as soon as the discussions are finalised”.
To add to the confusion, Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan said Zimbabwe cancelled the tour after gunmen killed at least 45 people on Wednesday in the latest attack directed against religious minorities.
“The Zimbabwe cricket board has called us and cancelled their tour owing to security reasons and the killings of minorities in Karachi yesterday,” Khan told Reuters before adding that Pakistan was trying to persuade Zimbabwe to reconsider.
Zimbabwe were due to be the first test-playing nation to tour Pakistan since a 2009 gun attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore left six Pakistani policemen and a van driver dead while some players and a local umpire were injured.
Pakistan have been forced to play designated ‘home’ matches primarily in the United Arab Emirates since then.
On Wednesday, coach Dav Whatmore told Reuters that he supported the trip.
“I‘m fully behind the tour and I believe it’s going to be a tremendous success,” said the Sri Lankan-born Whatmore who coached Pakistan for two years from 2012.
”I understand others feel differently but I would never put anybody else in an unsafe environment. I understand the significance of this tour to Pakistan and I‘m very happy to go.
“To have a full-member nation play international cricket in Lahore and the state of Punjab is hugely important for Pakistan and transcends cricket,” added Whatmore.
A delegation including Zimbabwe Cricket managing director Alistair Campbell travelled to Lahore last week and were satisfied with security measures due to be put in place by local authorities.
If the tour goes ahead Zimbabwe will leave on Sunday to play two Twenty20 internationals, starting on May 22, and a three-match one-day series that begins four days later.
Editing by Tony Jimenez and Pritha Sarkar