Zimbabwe’s Indian cricket coach withdrawn from Pakistan tour

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe cricket coach and former India player Lalchand Rajput was stopped from traveling for a limited-overs series in Pakistan on Tuesday amid heightened India-Pakistan tensions.

Zimbabwe’s cricket board said it had withdrawn Rajput from the touring party after a request from the Indian Embassy in Harare.

The embassy asked that Rajput “be exempted from visiting Pakistan for the limited-overs tour in accordance with the travel guidelines stipulated by the government of India for its citizens,” Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) said.

Rajput had been granted a visa by the Pakistan Embassy, Zimbabwe Cricket said, before the Indian government stepped in. ZC chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani said his body couldn’t disregard the request from the Indian government.

“We just have to do with what we have, although we are obviously disappointed to tour without our coach,” Mukuhlani said. “We are not involved in the diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan. We are friends with India, and we are friends with Pakistan. Matters of diplomacy, we left those to the government of India.”

Bowling coach Douglas Hondo will take over as Zimbabwe’s head coach for the tour.

Zimbabwe will play Pakistan in three one-day internationals in Rawalpindi and three Twenty20 games in Lahore, with the first ODI on Oct. 30. No fans will be allowed to attend any of the games because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Zimbabwe squad and officials arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday. They were tested for the coronavirus on their arrival and will have to observe a seven-day isolation period during which they will hold closed training sessions at the Army Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi.

This is Zimbabwe’s first tour of Pakistan in five years. Zimbabwe visited in 2015, when it was the first full International Cricket Council member country to tour Pakistan since an attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009.

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AP Sports Writer Rizwan Ali contributed from Islamabad.

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