LONDON: The England Cricket Board announced on Monday that it was withdrawing both its men’s and women’s teams from their tour of Pakistan scheduled for next month.
“We can confirm that the Board has reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip,” the ECB said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, Britain High Commissioner to Pakistan Dr Christian Turner has issued a statement for the media and also interviewed to a number of TV channels.
Following the suit of New Zealand, the England cricket team cancelled its scheduled Pakistan tour amidst security concerns. The English and Wales Cricket Board made an announcement on September 20 and cited the concerns over the security and mental wellbeing of the players as the reason behind the sudden pullout from the Pakistan tour. Now, British High Commissioner to Pakistan has issued a clarification regarding the decision and said that the cancellation of the tour was done solely on part of the ECB and the British government had no role in it.
British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Christian Turner, posted a video message on Twitter and expressed regret over the tour cancellation of the scheduled series. He said that decision to cancel the tour was taken by the ECB which is independent of the British Government and it was based on the welfare of the players.
Turner emphasized the British High Commission had no role to play in the decision and said that there was no alarm raised over security grounds. In fact, the High Commissioner was in favour of the tour. He added that the British travel advisory to Pakistan has not changed.
The decision comes three days after New Zealand abandoned their tour of Pakistan citing a “security threat”, minutes before the first ODI match was scheduled to start at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium — a move that shocked Pakistani fans and officials.
In a statement, the ECB said it had “a longstanding commitment to tour Pakistan as part of the Men’s Future Tours Programme in 2022”.
It said England had agreed to play two additional T20 World Cup warm-up games in Pakistan in October, adding a short women’s tour with double headers alongside the men’s games.
“The ECB Board convened this weekend to discuss these extra England Women’s and Men’s games in Pakistan and we can confirm that the Board has reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip,” it added.
The board emphasised that players’ and staff’s mental and physical well-being remained its highest priority “and this is even more critical given the times we are currently living in”.
“We know there are increasing concerns about travelling to the region,” it said while referring to Pakistan, adding that going ahead with the tour “will add further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted Covid environments”.
According to the press release, there was an “added complexity” for England Men’s T20 squad. “We believe that touring under these conditions will not be ideal preparation for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, where performing well remains a top priority for 2021,” it explained.
“We understand that this decision will be a significant disappointment to the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board), who have worked tirelessly to host the return of international cricket in their country,” the statement said, noting that Pakistan’s support of English and Welsh cricket over the last two summers had been “a huge demonstration of friendship”.
“We are sincerely sorry for the impact this will have on cricket in Pakistan and emphasise an ongoing commitment to our main touring plans there for 2022.”
‘Finding excuses to wriggle out’
PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja was quick to react, saying he was “disappointed” with England for “pulling out of their commitment & failing a member of their Cricket fraternity when it needed it most”.
“Survive we will Inshallah,” he wrote, terming the development “a wake-up call for Pakistan team to become the best team in the world for teams to line up to play them without making excuses”.
New Zealand to tour India in November
New Zealand will return to the subcontinent in November to play three Twenty20 Internationals and two test matches in India, two months after abandoning their tour of Pakistan over safety concerns.
The series against New Zealand will kick-start India’s 2021-22 home season which includes four tests, three one-dayers and 14 Twenty20 Internationals, the Indian cricket board said in a statement on Monday.
In a move that disappointed cricket analysts and enthusiasts, New Zealand called off their limited-overs tour of Pakistan minutes before the opening fixture in Rawalpindi on Friday following a security alert from their government.
India could not host the second half of the Indian Premier League (IPL) or the Twenty20 World Cup because of the Covid-19 surge in the country this year.
Both tournaments have been shifted to the United Arab Emirates, with Oman also hosting some T20 World Cup matches.
West Indies will arrive in India in February to play six limited-overs matches, followed by Sri Lanka who will face their hosts in two tests and three Twenty20 Internationals. South Africa will tour India in June to play six Twenty20 matches.