Australian cricket time arrived in Pakistan on Sunday for their six-week tour to play three Tests, three one-day internationals, and one Twenty20 match against the hosts, beginning March 3 till April's first week.
The squad will be touring Pakistan after 24 years after Pakistan assured full protection.
Notably, international teams had resumed touring Pakistan in 2019 after a hiatus of 10 years. The cricketing world had stopped touring Pakistan after a visiting Sri Lankan team's bus was attacked in 2009.
However, the fear still rules the Australian players who are putting on a brave face. The misgivings are best described in a dispatch by Peter Lalor, senior cricket writer of
The Australian newspaper, who will be covering the Australia-Pakistan cricket series. Lalor calls it "a test for cricket diplomacy."
"There will be military, paramilitary and police creating a cordon around the grounds and the hotels. Not in the hundreds but in the thousands. There will be armoured buses on closed roads. There is a close personal protection team and hostile vehicle mitigation. Snipers on roof-tops and armoured cars on side streets," read Lalor's dispatch, giving details of the security arrangements for the Australian players.
Further, expressing his fear of the security of Pakistan, Lalor said Australia's cricketers in Pakistan will face the tightest security and biosecurity bubble they've ever encountered and the only time they'll be more than a few metres from a man with a machine gun will be on the field.
"Even before the times of terror and the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus, before the coronavirus, Pakistan was not a popular place to tour," the dispatch added.
Lalor puts the Australian 'compulsions' in this context to point to Aussies' keenness, if not desperation, to undertake a security risk-prone visit.
"Nobody was threatened with dire consequences if they did not undertake tour this time but it took some time to convince some who were determined it was too unsafe and too difficult," he said, adding that the players not playing a Test abroad since 2019 Ashes however helped.
Elaborating why Australia has not visited Pakistan since 1998, Lalor recalls, "New Zealand fled on the eve of their first ODI match in September. England refused to even board the plane in October."
The dispatch further stated that Australians are now trying to rescue Pakistan whose cricket has been on life support since 2009.
It has had to play its "home" games in the United Arab Emirates, or England or wherever will take it. A generation of fans who are as passionate about the game as any, grew up deprived of international cricket." it added.
However, the military presence during the Australia-Pakistan series is disappointing as to play the "gentlemen's game" under military protection is unprecedented.
Notably, the Pakistan Army has been tasked with providing security for the upcoming Pakistan-Australia Test cricket series, which is scheduled through March and April and will take place in Rawalpindi, Karachi, and Lahore, according to Pakistan media reports.
According to reports from Geo TV, besides the army, an additional 4,000 police personnel will be stationed across the city. Shopping malls and markets near the cricket stadiums will reportedly be closed, and mobile services will be suspended in certain areas as the teams are transported between games.
However, Lalor, in his dispatch, said, "The sight of machine guns and helicopters and cordons can be as unsettling as it is reassuring but the Australian security detail say the reason there is so much caution is obvious: should anything happen it will be back to square one for Pakistan."