State security for Proteas in Pakistan as Boucher hopes charges focus on cricket

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Pakistani soldiers' presence at international cricket games is now standard practice (Getty Images)
Pakistani soldiers' presence at international cricket games is now standard practice (Getty Images)
  • Security will always be at the back of the mind when the Proteas are on tour in Pakistan, but head coach Mark Boucher hopes his charges don't become preoccupied with it.
  • The South Africans haven't toured the country since 2007, partly because of Pakistan's troubles with insurgency over the past decade.
  • Boucher says the team must trust security arrangements and also believes their Covid-related lockdown won't be as challenging as others.

Overall security will always be a "concern" when touring Pakistan, but Proteas mentor Mark Boucher has implored his charges to just focus on "putting up a show for everyone".

The South Africans depart for country, where they haven't played an international since 2007, on Friday and become the latest visiting team to take part in the broader mission of staging high-profile cricket there more regularly.

Pakistan has only hosted two Test series - against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - since 2015 and didn't play any international cricket at home for six years following 2009's terrorist attack on the selfsame Sri Lankans' team bus.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) had sent a security delegation to the country last year, who gave arrangement the thumb up.

"Safety, unfortunately, is a major concern," Boucher said ahead of the national team's departure.

"However, I don't like to micro-manage, I've said it before. So there have been quite a few guys who've gone over there before and done a recce of the situation. They said it's safe.

"Just like I don't make calls on medical and physio matters, I won't make a call on security. The recce party was tasked with a job and they've returned and said it's safe. We need to get back in and playing cricket. We trust the right decisions are made and still get made."

An additional factor that will provide further comfort to the Proteas is the fact that they will be provided with the type of protection reserved for diplomats and other VIPs.

"They've assured us that they'll look after us. We're getting state security as well, which is good," said Boucher.

"It's just about going over now, playing cricket and letting the other people around us do their jobs."

Boucher noted, rather ironically, that the tight security measures will actually make the biologically-secure environment (BSE) in which the players will have to operate in less difficult.

"As a place, on the last tour we weren't really allowed outside of the hotel so I don't see that being different now," the 45-year-old, who made his Test debut on the 1997 tour to the country and embarked on two more as a player, said.

"Players who've toured the sub-continent before will tell you that you don't get out of the hotel much anyway, so it will probably be an easier lockdown that what we're actually used to."

Despite not having the luxury of a more "open-plan" quarantined environment as was the case most recently at the Irene Country Lodge, security officials are in the process of obtaining the players a venue that allows them to safely escape the confines of their hotel.

"Our security officers are looking at a club next to the hotel, where there's a pool and a gym and field for the guys to get out and run around a bit there," said Boucher.

"We're used to staying in hotels in an almost lockdown-type scenario when touring. I don't see it being a problem.

"We have a games room to try and keep the guys interested. Netflix has become a bit of a winner too, guys just lying around and watching a few things. We should be fine." 

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