For any international cricketing side touring Pakistan, security has always been a major concern. In 2002, New Zealand pulled out of their tour of Pakistan with immediate effect after a bomb exploded near the hotel in Karachi. The cricketing fraternity also remembers vividly the 2009 scenario from Lahore when the bus of the Sri Lankan cricket team was targeted by terror elements and Pakistan found itself sidelined as an international host for a decade.
On Friday, March 4, the ghosts of terror revisited the international cricketing schedule in Pakistan. At a time when Australia are touring the Asian country for their first tour since 1998, a suicide bomb attack in a mosque in Peshawar, located around 188 kilometres from Rawalpindi where Pakistan and Australia are playing their first Test match, killed more than 50 worshippers and injured several. More than 150 people were inside the mosque when it was attacked by gunmen and a man ran inside and detonated a bomb, local reports said.
The incident created a shock in the cricketing fraternity and Cricket Australia (CA) was monitoring the situation closely. In the recent past, teams like New Zealand and England refused to play in Pakistan, inviting the home country’s wrath and this time, too, Australian cricketer Ashton Agar received a death threat ahead of the series.
Peshawar doesn’t feature in Australia’s current itinerary and the visiting players have been given a presidential-style security during the month-long tour. Australian team officials were monitoring the situation and kept in contact with the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. It also added that there is no sign that the Peshawar blast will affect the series adversely.
The current match in Rawalpindi is the sixth Test which Pakistan has hosted since the 2009 incident. Both CA and Pakistan Cricket Board have put in special efforts to make the series a reality and will do everything they can to ensure that the tour doesn’t get derailed in the middle. Meanwhile, Pakistan were comfortably placed at 245 for 1 at the end of Day 1 of the Test match after their captain Babar Azam won the toss and opted to bat. Opener Imam-ul-Haque slammed an unbeaten 132 while Azhar Ali was batting on 64 not out. Nathan Lyon got the only wicket for Australia and it was of the other opener Abdullah Shafique (44).