Whatmore recalls ‘extreme’ Pakistan tour


Zimbabwe head coach Dav Whatmore used to live in Lahore when he coached Pakistan a few years ago, but Zim's recent historic tour to the country what a vastly different experience, with guns and guards everywhere.

Whatmore, an Australian, described the two-week tour, which went ahead controversially due to safety concerns, saying that he and the team experienced what a visiting head of State might do, with convoys and helicopters hovering.

Whatmore told Cricinfo: "In the hotel, we had the whole fourth floor. Pakistan was on the third floor. Nice hotel. But you would sometimes have to excuse yourself in the corridor to get past security.

"And there were, I think, four different agencies. You had to walk around people to get to another room or go down to breakfast.

"[We] probably got to experience what Barack Obama might go through, or any visiting head of state. I counted at least 24 vehicles in front of the bus. We always travelled in a convoy, and there were three buses – one like a decoy bus.

Similar [number of vehicles] at the back. And then two on either side of us. And all the streets were just shut. And we had two helicopters as well. You'd be looking around during training and you could see them flying over.

"Coordinating that is not an easy thing. You can't make a late decision to go somewhere. Training was always set in stone. Cancelling something was not a problem, but to add anything was almost impossible.

"The only time we saw people out in the streets was when you went to the ground for games, and it was packed – 25,000 or whatever. But everything else was deserted. It was incredible. It was extremes."

Security was so high because of the terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus six years ago, in 2009, after which all international cricket to Pakistan was suspended. Zimbabwe were the first full member side to go there since.

Whatmore said he could feel how much the tour meant to the home fans, and even to the players, many of whom had never played an international match on home soil.

He explained: "I have to say, it was really wonderful to see that very first T20 match, when the anthems were playing, everyone in that packed stadium was singing that Pakistan anthem. Really moving stuff.

"And everyone was making the same comment to us: "Thank you very much, this is fantastic." Even the Pakistan players, when they were interviewed, always would make it a point to thank Zimbabwe for coming along.

"During the games the ground announcer would also start a chant of 'Zimbabwe' and then the whole crowd would get involved. Amazing."