| Shaun Pollock at the Lahore airport on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Lahore: South Africa captain Graeme Smith says his team is determined to focus on cricket during their tour of Pakistan, although he expects security fears to play on their minds.
The South African team arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday amid heavy security, having initially cancelled the trip on safety grounds before agreeing to a curtailed tour after Pakistan dropped Karachi and Peshawar as match venues.
A dozen Pakistani police commandos cordoned off the arrival terminal at Allama Iqbal International Airport before the South Africans were escorted to their hotel by a squad of 20 police vehicles.
“No one should question the integrity of the United Cricket Board (UCB) or the South African team,” Smith later told a news conference in Lahore.
“The UCB sat with us,” Smith said. “They explained everything to us and we are aware of everything that has gone on. We are the first big nation in a long time (to visit Pakistan). We are not going to leave here disappointed.”
“We have come here on the back of two bomb blasts. We have come here to play cricket and to win. (But) I think I would be lying to you if I said that there were no worries about the security issues.
I am not afraid of Pakistanis, but I am afraid of the bombs,” Smith said.
“I think two weeks of discussing security and administration is definitely going to play on our mind. It definitely plays a role. But now we are here to play and all that is behind us,” the 22-year-old added.
The South Africans had expressed concern at playing at the two venues, and recent bomb explosions in Karachi underlined their fears.
Pakistan has been a ‘no-go’ country for most touring sides since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States amid fears of Islamic militant attacks.
A suicide bomb outside the Karachi hotel where the New Zealand team was staying in May 2002 prompted the cancellation of the tour, and West Indies and Australia both refused to tour Pakistan last year, using neutral venues instead.
“Starting from our first practice today, we are to focus on cricket and on how to beat Pakistan,” Smith said.
“We had a good discussion in Dubai before we landed here. It was a good team meeting. But obviously we have not had much time to prepare for this tour. I think we are a bit under-prepared.”
South Africa are touring Pakistan for the first time since 1997, when they won the Test series 1-0 under Hansie Cronje.
The present squad has just four survivors from that tour — Shaun Pollock, Paul Adams, Jacques Kallis and Gary Kirsten, who will join the team for the two Tests after the five-match one-day series.
“I think it is going to be an evenly matched and explosive series,” said Smith, adding that his team was disappointed not to be playing in Karachi or Peshawar.
“But my point of view is that my men have taken a decision on our safety. If they feel it is unsafe, we are not going to take our safety for granted. I think it’s good for Pakistan cricket we are here.”