ISLAMABAD: The provincial government of Punjab has requested the Pakistan army and paramilitary Rangers to help with security arrangements as New Zealand faces Pakistan on Friday at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in the first of three one-day internationals (ODIs), local media reported on Thursday.
The Black Cap squad, which returned to Pakistan for the first time since 2003, is staying at an Islamabad hotel guarded by a heavy police contingent.
The series comprises three ODIs and five Twenty20s starting with a first ODI at Rawalpindi on Friday. Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi will also host the other two ODIs on September 19 and 21 while Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium will host all five T20s as both teams prepare for next month’s T20 World Cup in the UAE.
“Paramilitary force and law enforcement agencies on Wednesday started arrangements of security in and around the Qaddafi Stadium for the Pakistan and New Zealand series,” The News reported on Thursday. “The Punjab government has asked for the help of Army and Rangers for security.”
The Home Department has directed Lahore Police to prepare a “foolproof security plan.”
“As part of the plan, officials of Army and Rangers visited the stadium and made plans for deployment of officials at roads leading to the stadium and the players dressing room,” the newspaper said.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has secured government approval for 25 percent capacity crowds at both Pindi Cricket Stadium and Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore which means 4,500 spectators can attend the games in Rawalpindi and 5,500 in Lahore.
International cricket was suspended in Pakistan after the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan side in Lahore. In the past two years, however, it has slowly revived due to an improvement in security conditions in the country.
Pakistan and New Zealand last met in an international 50-over competition during the Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 when Babar Azam’s century anchored his side to a six-wicket win at Birmingham.
This latest series provides an opportunity to sixth-ranked Pakistan to climb a spot in the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings.
“If the hosts beat the tourists by a 3-0 scoreline, they would jump to fifth position, however, any other result will see both sides retain their pre-series rankings,” PCB said.
New Zealand, the top-ranked ODI team in the ICC Rankings and the finalists of the 2019 World Cup, come into this series with a 3-0 sweep over Bangladesh in the three-match ODI series at home in March and will be eager to extend their winning streak.
“Finally, the day has arrived and our entire camp is very excited to play New Zealand at home. We have practiced hard for this series and I am sure we will take full advantage of our home conditions,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam Saud in his pre-series media conference held online.
New Zealand captain Tom Latham said: “We know it is special for Pakistan to have cricket in their country and we are excited to be here. Pakistan are a quality side and they have some talented white-ball players in their line-up.”