RAWALPINDI: The New Zealand cricket team has cancelled its tour of Pakistan Friday after informing the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) of a "security alert", a statement issued by the board confirmed.
"Earlier today, New Zealand Cricket informed us they had been alerted to some security alert and have unilaterally decided to postpone the series," reads the press release.
"Pakistan Cricket Board and Pakistan Government made foolproof security arrangements for all visiting teams. We have assured the New Zealand Cricket of the same. The Pakistan prime minister spoke personally to the prime minister of New Zealand and informed her that we have one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team," it added.
The PCB said that the security officials who travelled with the New Zealand team were satisfied with security arrangements made by the Pakistan government throughout their stay here.
"PCB is willing to continue the scheduled matches. However, cricket lovers in Pakistan and around the world will be disappointed by this last-minute withdrawal," stated the PCB.
As expected, the news of New Zealand abandoning the Pakistan tour at the last minute did not go down with PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja.
Describing it a "crazy" day, Raja said he felt sorry for Pakistani fans and players.
PTI's Senator Faisal Javed Khan expressed disappointment over New Zealand cricket's decision, saying that it is "beyond understanding."
Shortly after New Zealand pulled out of the Pakistan cricket series, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said it would determine in the next 24-48 hours whether it will proceed with the tour or not.
England's men and women teams are due to play two T20s in Rawalpindi on October 13 and 14. The women's team are also due to play three ODIs in Pakistan on October 17, 19 and 21.
"We're aware of New Zealand's decision to pull out of the Pakistan tour due to a security alert," said an ECP spokesperson.
"We are liaising with our security team who are on the ground in Pakistan to fully understand the situation. The ECB Board will then decide in the next 24-48 hours whether our planned tour should proceed."
Former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar lashed out at the New Zealand cricket authorities for cancelling the series unilaterally, saying that Pakistan has been embarrassed in front of the world.
"We stand firm with our government, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), our army and security agencies," said the Rawalpindi Express, speaking to Geo News.
"I agree that the ISI is the number one intelligence agency in the world," he said. "You [New Zealand authorities] arrived here after obtaining security clearance. You have no right to embarrass Pakistan like that and leave," he added, angrily.
Akhtar lashed out at New Zealand, saying that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should have shown some regard for PM Imran Khan when he spoke to her.
"He [PM Imran Khan] is speaking to you based on facts, then how can you embarrass us on such a high level?" he asked.
Shoaib said that it was unfrotunate for PCB chief Ramiz Raja, who took over the reins of the board a few days ago.
"You have to understand that Pakistan's image has been damaged. I am not concerned about Pakistan cricket at the moment, I care for the country's image," he said.
Former Pakistan fast bowler Sikander Bakht lashed out at the New Zealand authorities, questioning its "security alert" excuse to abandon the tour.
"They practiced here for five days. Not a single stone was hurled at them. Withdrawing at the last minute is very disappointing," he said.
Bakht said Pakistan had facilitated countries around the world by playing Test matches in difficult conditions, in England and elsewhere.
"We went the extra mile for them, we played Test matches for them," he said. "And they are the ones who hit us. I was saying at the time that they [New Zealand] will not come to Pakistan and the same has happened now," he added.
"For God's sake, do not help them [New Zealand] again," he urged the PCB.
A statement by the New Zealand cricket board confirmed the development, saying that it had decided to cancel the tour "following an escalation in the New Zealand Government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisors on the ground."
Arrangements are now being made for the team’s departure, said the press release.
New Zealand Cricket CEO David White said it was a "blow for the PCB, who have been wonderful hosts, but player safety is paramount and we believe this is the only responsible option."
NZC will not comment on the details of the security threat nor the updated arrangements for the departing squad, concluded the press release.
Interior minister will hold a press conference at 5:00pm to shed more light on the matter, said sources.
Sources further told Geo News that players of both teams were told to remain in their rooms and not venture out.
Sports journalist Alia Rasheed said Pakistanis in general and Islamabad, Rawalpindi fans in particular are extremely disappointed at the match getting cancelled.