Sheikhupura: Zimbabwe's stand-in captain Hamilton Masakadza has praised security arrangements in Pakistan, raising hopes among cricket officials that it will convince Australia to tour next month.
Zimbabwe continued their Pakistan tour despite a bomb blast which killed nine people in Karachi last month. They played matches in Karachi, Hyderabad, Multan, Faisalabad and Sheikhupura during their three-week stay.
Australia are scheduled to tour Pakistan for three Tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 match in March-April, a visit which has come under serious doubt over security fears.
"We were looked after very well and security wasn't a worry for us in Pakistan," said Masakadza after his team was whitewashed 5-0 in the one-day series here on Saturday.
"We were given proper care throughout our stay for which we are thankful. Pakistan is a safe country," said Masakadza, who led Zimbabwe after captain Prosper Utseya was injured.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief operating officer Shafqat Naghmi said the Zimbabwe tour had been a test case for Australia.
"Now I can say with authority and pride that we have successfully hosted matches and hope that the world champions will tour," Naghmi told AFP.
Naghmi said cricketers have always felt safe in Pakistan.
"We hosted Zimbabwe matches on smaller centres like Hyderabad and Sheikhupura and hosting of these matches without any problems prove that there are no threats for players."
Several Australian players have raised security concerns on touring the country where the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto in December last year triggered widespread violence.
Cricket Australia (CA) will send a security delegation to assess the situation in Pakistan after February 18 general elections before taking a final decision on the tour, Australia's first here in 10 years.
Pakistan had ruled out switching the series to neutral venues or relocating it to Australia. They were forced to do so in 2002 after Australia refused to tour Pakistan over security fears in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Foreign teams have shown reluctance to tour Pakistan since. New Zealand cut short a tour after a bomb blast outside their hotel killed 14 people, including nine French naval officials, in May 2002.
South Africa completed a tour of Pakistan in October last year. They played a four-day match and a Test in Karachi but refused to return to the port city for a one-day match following an earlier assassination attempt on Bhutto on October 18.
The match was later played in Lahore.