ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan, a former cricketing sensation who steered his side to the 1992 World Cup victory, on Monday said money was now the “big player” in international cricket and arch-rival India “controls” the game by virtue of having the richest cricket board in the world.
Khan’s comments came during an interview with the Middle East Eye, in which he was asked about his reaction to the 11th-hour cancelation of Pakistan tours by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
He said one of the reasons for the tour’s cancelation was “money is big player now for the players as well as for the cricket boards.”
Late last month, the ECB withdrew its men and women teams from traveling to Pakistan, just days after New Zealand Cricket said it was abandoning its series in the country following a “security alert” by its government.
“Indian cricket board is the richest cricket board in the world. Money lies in India, so basically India controls world cricket,” PM Khan told the Middle East Eye.
He said whatever the Indian cricket board said, others followed because “India can produce much more money.”
The Board of Cricket Control India (BCCI) or others did not respond to the comments by the Pakistani premier. “New Zealand let themselves down, just canceling tour from stadium on something we know was fake news, which was initiated by some Indian through Singapore,” Khan said. “We know that they got worried and left, and then England, without even consulting anyone, they left.”
The PM was referring to reports that NZ players received threatening emails that Pakistan has said originated in India. Pakistan, which has been struggling to revive international cricket on home grounds, was taken aback by the cancelation of the two tours.
International teams stopped visiting the South Asian nation after the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. International matches partially resumed in the country when Zimbabwe toured it in May 2015, followed by the West Indies and Sri Lankan cricket teams.
PM Khan said he was expecting a “bit more from England.”
“Of course, the biggest worry of protection of foreign teams is for us, imagine if something happens in Pakistan [to foreign teams], we are responsible,” he said. “We have one of the best intelligence agencies in the world and I checked thoroughly we had completely secured everything [for cricket tours].”
The ECB decision to pull out of the Pakistan tour was met with widespread anger and disappointment by Pakistani officials and cricket fans.