Tom Latham, New Zealand stand-in captain for the cancelled Pakistan series, admitted the team's decision to pull out of the tour citing security concerns was "very disappointing" for Pakistan fans. Latham, who is currently in Dubai, was speaking to New Zealand's in-house media channel, and detailed the build-up to the fateful decision to call off the tour minutes before the start of the first ODI in Rawalpindi.
"It was like a normal game day," he said, speaking from his hotel room. "We were leaving at 12:30, and then I got a message on my WhatsApp group that we were having a team meeting at 12 o clock. Everyone was sort of wondering what was up and then we got told the news that we were heading home. It was an interesting 24 hours post that decision but obviously NZC and the Players Association, everyone on the ground in Pakistan and NZ Cricket obviously had players' safety first and foremost. For them to get us to Dubai in 24 hours was outstanding so the guys were very thankful for that."
The tour was called off on the day the first ODI was due to be played after what NZC CEO David White later said was a "specific and credible" threat directed at the touring side, one that would not be shared with the PCB or the Pakistan authorities, a point that particularly riled PCB chairman Ramiz Raja and CEO Wasim Khan. Latham spoke of the "historic nature of the tour, 18 years after New Zealand's last, and paid tribute to the Pakistani authorities and NZC for keeping the players' safety foremost in their minds.
"It's naturally very disappointing for them [Pakistan and their fans]," Latham said. "It was something they were very proud of. I remember doing the captain's round with Babar [Azam] the day before and just seeing how happy he was to have international cricket and have us there. He was very excited and it was a historic moment for New Zealand Cricket to be back there 18 years since they were last there. To be part of that was going to be something special, but obviously things changed. NZC acted swiftly along with the people on the ground in Pakistan. While we were there after the decision, the Pakistan authorities were brilliant. They kept us safe at the hotel and we certainly need to thank them."
Latham also spoke of everyone's relief at leaving Pakistan safely and getting to Dubai, and said the players were "looking forward to getting home".
"We managed to get to Dubai 24 hours after the decision was made. For the guys to connect as a group and spend a bit of time together was nice. It was a hectic 24 hours but we're all good, the guys are in good spirits and we're looking forward to getting home.
"It was a pretty hectic 24 hours once we found out we were heading home. The guys dealt with it all slightly differently but we stayed tight as a group over there in those 24 hours we had in Islamabad. For us to be here and to be safe, the guys were certainly very pleased to get here."
New Zealand's decision to pull out of the tour has seen Pakistan's home season, busier than it has been in over a decade, unravel quickly. The England and Wales Cricket Board announced days later their men's and women's sides would not tour as scheduled in October either, citing general player wellbeing and "increasing concerns about travelling to the region", without citing a specific security threat. The prospect of a visit from Australia, due to tour in March next year, also appears exceedingly remote.