South Africa impressed with Pakistan security, says skipper de Kock

KARACHI (Agencies): South African skipper Quinton de Kock says top-notch security surrounding the squad since their arrival in Pakistan at the weekend has allowed them to concentrate fully on cricket.

De Kock is leading a 21-strong squad on South Africa’s first tour to Pakistan in 14 years, where they will play two Tests and three Twenty20 internationals.

The first Test starts in Karachi on January 26. “When we were coming here, obviously, security was a concern — if not the biggest concern,” the 28-year-old told a virtual news conference. “When we landed here we saw the amount of security… we became a lot calmer. It became less of a worry and we were able to focus more on cricket.”

Pakistan went years without playing home games after militant Islamists attacked the team bus of the Sri Lankan side in 2009. They have hosted a few limited-overs matches since 2015, but Test cricket only resumed in December 2019.

“It looks like all corners are checked… all bases covered, touch wood,” said de Kock. “At the moment we feel safe. There is a lot of security, so now we are just worrying about cricket.”

The squad are being kept effectively in a bubble at their Karachi hotel as a precaution against the coronavirus, but can train at a nearby club ground. All matches will be played behind closed doors, however, as Pakistan grapples with an epidemic that has officially infected over half a million people and killed more than 10,000. De Kock admitted playing conditions in Pakistan were unknown for the squad, although head coach Mark Boucher toured in 1997, 2003 and 2007 as a player.

“We do understand that spin plays a big part in the subcontinent so we will have all our bases covered,” said de Kock, who will play his 50th Test in Karachi. The second Test will be played in Rawalpindi from February 4, while Lahore will host all three Twenty20 internationals on February 11, 13 14.