Cape Town (Reuters): Zimbabwe coach Dav Whatmore expects their tour of Pakistan later this month to be a “tremendous success” and said he would not travel if he thought lives were in danger.
Zimbabwe will be the first country to tour Pakistan since a gun attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009 left seven players injured and six policemen plus two civilians dead.
The team leaves on Sunday to play two T20 matches, starting on 22 May, and a three-match one-day International series that begins four days later.
“I’m fully behind the tour and I believe it’s going to be a tremendous success,” Sri Lankan-born Whatmore, who coached Pakistan for two years from 2012, told Reuters via telephone from Harare.
“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.”
A delegation including Zimbabwe Cricket managing director Alistair Campbell travelled to Lahore last week and was satisfied with the security measures to be put in place by local authorities.
The Zimbabwe squad announced on Tuesday sees the return of a number of experienced players. Aggressive middle-order batsman Charles Coventry returns after four years away from the team, having turned down the opportunity to participate at the 2014 Twenty20 World Cup.
Leg-spinner Graeme Cremer quit cricket for golf last year but is now back with ball in hand having failed to further his career with the clubs, while there is a first selection for batting all-rounder Roy Kaia.
“All these boys have been brought in because of their performances. Kaia was the top run scorer in the domestic Pro50 competition and had an average of 70,” Whatmore said.
“Coventry is back specifically for the T20 team and has been playing really well, and Graeme Cremer can be a big value add and has settled in beautifully.”
This will be a first tour without stalwart batsman Brendan Taylor, who retired from international cricket after the 50-over World Cup earlier this year.
Whatmore is concerned about who can fill his boots.
“It’s a huge blow to lose him... a huge blow. It’s difficult to cover for someone like that in a short space of time, but we can only try the best we can.”
The tour to Pakistan will be a first for Whatmore since he signed a new four-year contract to coach Zimbabwe after his short-term deal lapsed at the end of the World Cup.
He is excited by the potential he sees in Zimbabwe cricket and his short-term target is to help improve their ODI ranking.
“I really think it’s a challenge, a different type of challenge to most places,” the former Australia batsman said.
“Zimbabwe are ranked at number 11 in ODI cricket and that is unacceptable and something that has to change.
“But there is real potential here to move ahead, I would not have signed on if I did not believe that. But it is something that needs time.”