The Australian cricket team has returned to Pakistan after a 24-year absence.

After Australia’s cricketers touched down in Pakistan for the first time in 24 years on Sunday, captain Pat Cummins said the high security around his squad was “comforting” and would not be a distraction.

Hundreds of armed police guarded the airport and the path to the team hotel in Islamabad as Australia arrived in Pakistan, a degree of security generally reserved for heads of state.

“It’s reassuring. We are quite fortunate to be surrounded by so many experts “Cummins spoke about the high-security presence.

“Such arrangements are only made for high-level foreign delegations, (and) the president and prime minister of Pakistan,” a spokesman for Pakistan’s interior ministry said.

When the Australian team makes the 15-kilometre (11-mile) journey from the capital to the stadium, roads will be closed and army helicopters will follow their team bus.

Snipers will be stationed on adjoining buildings, while nearby stores and offices have been instructed to close on match days, according to the interior ministry.

Australians were isolated in their rooms for 24 hours as Covid tests are conducted before practising on Monday ahead of the opening of a three-match series against Pakistan, which begins on Friday in Rawalpindi.

Imran Khan, Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup-winning captain, was a struggling politician in 1998 before becoming the country’s prime minister.

Some of the stars slated to play in the eagerly awaited series, such as Pakistan’s speed duo of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah, opening batsman Abdullah Shafique, and Australian all-rounder Cameron Green, were not even born at the time.

Pakistan’s current captain, Babar Azam, was a toddler, while fast bowler Hasan Ali and allrounder Faheem Ashraf were still in school, and veteran batsmen Azhar Ali and Fawad Alam were still in school.

In 1998, none of the Australian players had made an impression at the first-class level.

The last time Australia visited Pakistan was in 1998, when it won both the Test and limited-overs series 1-0. Since a deadly terrorist attack on the bus of a visiting Sri Lankan squad in 2009, Pakistan has struggled to lure international teams, and Australia pulled out of a tour five years ago after a suicide bombing in a Lahore church.

Over the last six years, Pakistan has hosted Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, Bangladesh, and South Africa, but Australia will be the first high-profile team to visit Pakistan for a full bilateral series.

Pakistan appeared to have reassured international cricket authorities last year, with both New Zealand and England scheduled to tour. Pakistan had been forced to play their home games abroad, mostly in the United Arab Emirates.

However, the Black Caps abruptly left in September, only minutes before their first match, citing security concerns, and England’s men’s and women’s teams both postponed tours shortly after.

The decisions infuriated Pakistan cricket officials, who believed they had done everything in their power to assure safety and security.

They insist they’re taking no chances this time, with around 4,000 police and military officers stationed at the team hotel in Islamabad and the cricket stadium in Rawalpindi, a neighbouring garrison city.

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