Security concerns for Pak-bound South Africa

Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 14:35 [IST]
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Johannesburg: South Africa captain Graeme Smith said on Tuesday security concerns on the team's tour of Pakistan would mean his men would have to get used to spending much of their time restricted to hotels.

"I've heard something like 6,000 troops are on standby for us and I think we're going to be pretty much confined to our hotels," Smith told reporters before the team's departure.

"It is a big challenge being stuck in a hotel all the time because you have nothing to take your mind off the cricket and it's easy to slip into boredom, get lackadaisical and lose that drive."

Smith said his team were going to Pakistan feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation for the challenges ahead.

The South Africans start their tour with a three-day warm-up match against a Patron's XI in Karachi on Thursday.

"Playing a sub-continental team on their home grounds is always a massive challenge," Smith said.

"Your patience levels have to be very high and the guys will have to adapt to the lifestyle changes and the amount of security that will be around us."

Smith, however, said he was very excited about the tour, which starts a busy 18 months for South Africa, who will also visit India, Australia and England.

"We haven't won on the sub-continent for a while, so this is a great opportunity and an exciting tour. In the next year and a half we have some wonderful tours coming up and I would love to win in Pakistan as much as in England or Australia," he said.

"We will be introducing some new players and there are several young bowlers who are touring the sub-continent for the first time.

"(Spinner) Paul Harris will have his first real go overseas and (paceman) Morne Morkel is an awesome prospect."

Smith said he was not sure what to expect from Pakistan, who lost the Twenty20 World Cup final against India here on Monday.

"It will also be a challenge for them to adapt to test cricket again and a lack of experience can be hidden in the Twenty20.

"No one knows what's happening with Mohammad Yousuf and, with Abdul Razzaq gone, will they pay the extra all-rounder? Maybe there'll be one or two guys we don't know."

Security tightened: Meanwhile Pakistan has beefed up security as South African team arrived here for a month long tour, reports AFP from Karachi.

South Africa are due to play two Tests and five one-day internationals in the violence-hit Islamic republic. They open the tour with a warm-up three-day match in Karachi from Thursday.

Tight security was seen at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport with policemen surrounding Graeme Smith's men as they left the terminal building in the teeming city of 12 million people.

"We deployed 100 policemen, police commandos, mounted police and military commandos to create a tight security blanket," senior Karachi police officer Rana Pervez told.

The South Africans were then whisked to their hotel in a heavily guarded convoy.

They are due to hold a press conference later.

It is the first time South Africa have visited the troubled city since playing the quarter-final of the 1996 World Cup. They refused to play here over security fears on their tours in 1997 and 2003.

Security fears have surged in Pakistan after a spate of Islamic militant violence that has left around 270 people dead following the storming of an Al-Qaeda-linked mosque in Islamabad in July.

The nuclear-armed Islamic republic's military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, is also seeking re-election on October 6 in a bitterly contested poll.

Karachi itself was rocked by clashes between pro- and anti-Musharraf activists in May that left more than 40 people dead.


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