New Zealand’s men team were brought home on security advice from their government on Friday, with the announcement coming not long before the scheduled start time of the first ODI against Pakistan. It was New Zealand’s first visit to Pakistan in 18 years.
The decision caused consternation in Pakistan, whose fans have spent much of the last 12 years without international cricket to watch at home, following the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009. Pakistan have mainly played their home fixtures in the UAE in that time, although international teams have slowly been returning.
However, England’s return to the country has been called off, too.
The ECB said on Friday that it would make a decision in 24-48 hours on their own tour. The men and women were due to play T20 double-headers in Rawalpindi on October 13 and 14. The women were set to stay in the country to play ODIs, while the men moved on to the UAE for the T20 World Cup. It was to be England men’s first visit to Pakistan since 2005, and England women’s first ever.
The ECB waited until Monday to announce that the tour was off, citing the “wellbeing of its players and staff” after a long period in biosecure bubbles.
“Earlier this year, we 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,” said an ECB statement.
“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.
“The mental and physical wellbeing of our players and support staff remains our 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 and believe that going ahead will add further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted Covid environments.
“There is the added complexity for our 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.”
Pakistan Cricket Board CEO Wasim Khan, who is British Asian, had said on Sunday that “we certainly believe they should be coming and hope they will be coming”. The ECB found themselves in a tricky position. The short tour was to serve two purposes: chiefly to thank Pakistan for touring England in the summer of 2020, in the first six months of the pandemic; but also to act as a dry run for a full men’s tour in late 2022.
The ECB statement acknowledged this, saying: “We understand that this decision will be a significant disappointment to the PCB, who have worked tirelessly to host the return of international cricket in their country. Their support of English and Welsh cricket over the last two summers has 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.”
The new PCB chairman, Ramiz Raja, tweeted: “Disappointed with England, pulling out of their commitment & failing a member of their Cricket fraternity when it needed it most. Survive we will inshallah. A wake up call for Pak [sic] team to become the best team in the world for teams to line up to play them without making excuses.”
England were due to tour Bangladesh before visiting Pakistan, but that trip has already been called off by mutual agreement between the two boards due to scheduling demands.