Zimbabwe tour of Pakistan was very memorable - Elton Chigumbura
Elton Chigumbura said Zimbabwe felt secure during the tour of Pakistan
Zimbabwe’s tour of Pakistan in 2015 was quite a remarkable step for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), which has been trying hard to end the lack of international cricket in the nation which ensued after the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009.
This attack, occurring before the 2011 Cricket World Cup, has had severe repercussions on cricket in Pakistan and the team has been forced to adopt the United Arab Emirates as their second "home" venue for hosting international matches.
However, through the efforts of the PCB and the stringent security measures in place, international cricket returned to Pakistan with the visit of Zimbabwe, much to the delight of the home fans, who have been deprived of seeing their national team for more than six years.
Chigumbura recalls the tour of Pakistan, which is close to his heart as he scored his maiden international ton during the campaign.
Admitting that there were mixed feelings in the Zimbabwe camp before the tour, Chigumbura said that the team settled down after seeing the security arrangements made by the PCB.
Elton Chigumbura celebrating his century during the tour of Pakistan
"Obviously, there were a few things going through our minds considering what has happened before," he said.
"But with the guarantee from the Pakistan board and the security arrangements made, when we arrived, we were settled by what we saw and after about a day or so, everything became normal for us.
"It was actually an enjoyable tour which led to my first hundred as well, so it was a very memorable tour in so many ways.
"Memorable because a Test-playing nation (Zimbabwe) went there for the first time after many years and for me on a personal level too, as I scored my first hundred in international cricket.
"So it was good, we came in with mixed feelings, but at the end, it was a very good tour for us to be the first team to go there, and to play couple of good games, as well as for the people of Pakistan, as they witnessed a live match on home ground after a very long time.
"So it was a very memorable tour."
Replying in the affirmative when asked if Zimbabwe were happy with the security arrangements, Chigumbura said, "There were so many security personnel so we felt safe, and they looked after us very well. It was a very good tour for us."
The support for Zimbabwe from the crowd was quite evident as there were many people holding up placards thanking the team for touring the country after six long years.
Further adding that the team did not feel threatened or intimidated during their stay in Pakistan, Chigumbura said that it was a different experience for Zimbabwe as they were playing in front of a huge crowd unlike what they face at home.
"It was very nice, people were very happy to watch a live match in their own country, and even the players really enjoyed playing back home again in front of a home crowd.
"Everyone was very supportive and on both sides, they just wanted to watch a good game of cricket.
"For us playing in front of a huge crowd was something new to experience as we, when playing at home, have much smaller crowds compared to the one present in Lahore."
In the inaugural Pakistan Super League (PSL), Chigumbura was picked up by the Quetta Gladiators, who went on to finish the tournament as the runners-up.
Due to the presence of international stars like Kevin Pietersen, Kumar Sangakkara, Luke Wright and Grant Elliott, Chigumbura only managed to play in five matches in the PSL.
Nevertheless, Chigumbura expressed that the tournament was enjoyable for him and is hoping that he can play for the Quetta Gladiators again in the next season.
"It was a very organized tournament and I really enjoyed playing in the PSL," he said.
"I met different people and with the foreign players, it was also a good experience.
"I really enjoyed the opportunity I got from Pakistan and the franchise that picked me to come and represent the Quetta Gladiators.
"And hopefully, next year I’ll be back again because I really enjoyed the atmosphere.
"Unfortunately, I did not play much, but watched the tournament closely, and it was a very good and a learning experience for me and I really enjoyed it.
"Of course, if I’m given the opportunity again, I would love to go back to Quetta Gladiators because the few weeks that I was there for, we became one team, a big family that understood each other and the one that tried to understand one another coming from different backgrounds.
"Towards the end, we felt like we have been together for a very long time and this is what cricket is all about- creating relationships and learning from one another coming from different backgrounds."
Quetta Gladiators were led by Sarfraz Ahmed, who was later on handed the reigns of the Pakistan Twenty20 International team after the 2016 World T20.
Chigumbura is confident that Sarfraz will be successful in leading Pakistan as he has the right skills to flourish as a leader.
Elton Chigumbura believes Sarfraz Ahmed can be a successful captain for Pakistan
"He (Sarfaraz Ahmed) is a very good player and a great captain.
"The way he led the team was very good.
"He welcomed everyone and had a good relationship with everyone in the team.
"Obviously, he’s now leading the national team (T20s), I am sure he’ll be successful in doing that.
"His skills of leading the team are very good.
"I will not doubt that he will be successful in leading Pakistan team in the 20-20’s.”
Going into more detail about his stint with the Quetta Gladiators in the PSL, Chigumbura added that he managed to learn a thing or two from his captain, Ahmed and T20 batting stars like Pietersen and Elliott.
"I can say there are a number of people that made the difference in my preparation when I was a part of the Quetta Gladiators Team.
"Some of them include the captain who led from the front, Kevin Pietersen, Grant Elliot, Moin Khan- everyone played their part, and I thought I picked up one or two things from all of them.
"And also Viv Richards who encouraged us to always stay positive.
"There were so many different people who made the difference in the dressing room and I learned from every individual as they brought something new to the table.
"Ian Pont, the bowling coach was also very inspirational."
The Quetta Gladiators were coached by former Pakistan captain Moin Khan and the legendary Sir Viv Richards was the mentor of the side.
Full of praise for the coaching staff, Chigumbura hailed their role in helping the Quetta Gladiators reach all the way to the PSL final.
"I learned a lot, they (the coaching staff) are people who have been around for very long time and they tried to help the team and make us believe in ourselves.
"They shared their experiences and it was very good and made a big difference for us as a team that was considered weak and was not expected to get to the finals.
"They played a big part in the way we ended up reaching the finals."
Confident that the PSL will continue to grow in stature, Chigumbura feels that the tournament will play a big part in strengthening Pakistan cricket and bringing cricket back to the country.
"I think it’s going to strengthen Pakistan cricket.
"In the future, they will be able to bring on board even bigger players because of the way it was run this year.
"I am sure it’s going to be an even better and stronger competition going forward."
Zimbabwe, under the leadership of Graeme Cremer, will take on India in a short limited overs campaign later this month.
Chigumbura, who is set to take part in his 200th ODI, is confident about the preparations for the series against India, which included a fitness and skills camp.
"The preparations have been good, we had a couple of months off and now we’re going into fitness and skills camp, and I think we’re going towards the right direction.
"So I can’t wait to play my 200th game, especially in front of home crowd so hopefully I’ll have a good one on my 200th and hopefully we can win."
The PCB, buoyed by the successful visit from Zimbabwe last year, is also currently trying to host Afghanistan and a Commonwealth XI team in a bid to fast-track the revival of international cricket in Pakistan.
© Cricket World 2016