Official: Zimbabwe not need gov't blessing to tour Pakistan

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) Zimbabwe players arrived in Pakistan amid heavy security on Tuesday saying they were focused solely on playing cricket, despite fresh warnings about their safety on tour.

Pakistan is hosting top-flight cricket for the first time since gunmen in Lahore attacked the Sri Lanka team convoy in 2009, killing six police officials and a van driver.

Ozias Bvute, head of the Zimbabwe delegation, said his government's Sports and Recreation Commission, which authorizes all sports tours, had indicated in a letter to Zimbabwe Cricket that ZC had the final decision on whether to tour Pakistan.

''Our chairman Wilson Manase took the decision and we agreed to tour Pakistan,'' Bvute said.

''The board and players were supportive of his decision, and ultimately we are here. This is testament to the fact that cricket is the ultimate winner.''

Bvute said ZC had weighed ''the pros and the cons (of the tour) ... and what we wanted to achieve is to come and play against our brothers.''

Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura endorsed Bvute's comments.

''For us, as players, it's an opportunity and we took it,'' Chigumbura said. ''Obviously, cricket is our job, and we are here to do a job and play cricket.''

However, the international players' federation has advised Zimbabwe against the tour, saying earlier this month that security was ''unmanageable'' in Pakistan.

The Federation's executive chairman Tony Irish renewed that warning in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

''We understand that ZC's own security consultants have also advised against the tour based on their security risk assessment,'' Irish wrote.

''We sympathize with the fact that Pakistan has had no international cricket for six years, but it's a matter of grave concern that the advice of the experts is being overlooked.''

Bvute said the 15 players in the party had volunteered to become the first test-playing team to land in Pakistan since 2009.

''Our players were offered the opportunity to voluntarily come to Pakistan,'' Bvute said. ''They accepted, and that's why we have a full-strength team.''

About 4,000 police and security personnel have been deployed to protect the touring delegation.

From its five-star hotel, Zimbabwe was taken on Tuesday for an evening practice at Gaddafi Stadium, where it will play two Twenty20s and three one-day internationals against Pakistan from Friday.

Chigumbura was experiencing such tight security for the first time, but wanted his team to stay focus on the series.

''Obviously it's (security) something new, but we are not worried about it as players, and the main thing for us is to play cricket,'' he said.

''We have young players in the team and hopefully we will give a good show.''

The armed security escort, including a helicopter, will stay with the team until it leaves on June 1, with Pakistan hoping it will have done enough by then to persuade other major cricket nations to return.

''We've seen the facilities which are laid out for us, and we are more than confident that we will have a successful tour,'' Bvute said.

''For many years, Zimbabwe was isolated so therefore we understand the politics of isolation. We are, therefore, here to firm our position that brotherhood supersedes everything else, and cricket unites us.''

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AP sports writer Gerald Imray contributed to this report

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