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Australian cricket team lands in Islamabad amid unprecedented security arrangements

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Islamabad, Feb 27 (IANS) The Australian me’s cricket, led by skipper Pat Cummins, touched down in Islamabad on Sunday morning for a three-match Test series beginning in Rawalpindi on March 4, marking the start of their first Test tour in nearly three years.

A report in cricket.com.au said on Sunday that stringent security measures were in place as the 18-member squad along with support staff exited the airport in the team’s maiden trip to Pakistan in 24 years. The Australian cricket team last played a series on Pakistani soil in 1998, winning the three-Test series 1-0 and making a clean sweep of the ODI assignment 3-0.

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The Australian players, who arrived on a chartered flight from Melbourne, shared images of their arrival on social media, with vice-captain Steve Smith, Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja and spinners Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson expressing their excitement ahead of the three-Test campaign.

The squad had been training in Melbourne, “observing pre-departure protocols to limit their exposure to COVID-19,” according to the report.

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The team is accompanied by Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive Nick Hockley. The players will undergo 24-hour quarantine, before they begin their full-steam training for the inaugural Test. “They will be in a high-security bubble for the duration of their six-week stay,” the report said.

Australia’s stringent COVID-19 norms and border controls have meant the Test side has only played at home since the drawn Ashes series in England in 2019. They postponed the scheduled tours of Bangladesh (mid-2020) and South Africa (early 2021) due to the pandemic.

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The Pakistan tour is Pat Cummins’s maiden overseas Tests assignment as skipper since he took charge after Tim Paine stepped down weeks before the Ashes series last year. The tour also heralds the beginning of the post-Justin Langer era, who resigned as head coach earlier this month unhappy with the fresh contractual terms offered by Cricket Australia.

Interim coach Andrew McDonald is leading the side.

Reports say Australia have been given ‘head-of-state’ level security for their tour, with around 4,000 police and military personnel guarding the team hotel in Islamabad and the cricket stadium in Rawalpindi.

–IANS

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