England’s tour of Pakistan in serious doubt after New Zealand tour cancelled due to security threat

·3-min read
Pakistan - AP
Pakistan - AP

The Pakistan Cricket Board will try to reassure England over security arrangements for next month’s tour but it is almost certain to be cancelled this weekend following the abrupt end to New Zealand’s series on Friday.

Hasty arrangements were being put together on Friday night for the New Zealand team to leave Pakistan after their government received intelligence of a security threat to the tour just hours before the opening game in Rawalpindi.

The ECB issued a statement on Friday saying a decision on the tours by the England men’s and women’s teams next month will be made over the next “24-48 hours” following an emergency board meeting.

Wasim Khan, the chief executive of the PCB, told Telegraph Sport he hopes England “keep an open mind” and the trip will still go ahead.

“We will reassure them of what we can put in place and the security roll out. England are coming for a very short tour and I would certainly hope they keep an open mind. We will speak to them (ECB) in the next 48 hours. They will go through their own processes. I would be disappointed if they pull out but it is a decision for the ECB to make.”

International cricket has only recently returned to Pakistan more than decade after the Sri Lanka team were attacked by terrorists on their way to the stadium in Lahore.

Last month the security firm used by New Zealand and England visited Pakistan and gave the trip the green light but the intelligence from the New Zealand government left its cricket board with no choice but to pull its players out.

England’s men are due to play two Twenty20s in Rawalpindi on consecutive days starting on October 13 with the women playing concurrently and staying on for an extra three ODIs until October 21. It was to be England’s main warm up matches for the Twenty20 World Cup.

It was to be England’s trip to Pakistan since 2005, and an historic first tour for the women, and was arranged as a thank you for Pakistan touring this country last summer when international cricket was on hold due to the covid pandemic.

It will have huge repercussions for Pakistan who are due to host West Indies and Australia in the coming months. England are scheduled for a full tour to Pakistan this time next year.

“Each country is going to have to assess things themselves and make their own decision,” Khan said. “I don’t think today will help moving forward for us. We have done a lot of hard work over the last two and half years to get Test cricket back and regular international cricket back into the country. Losing that momentum now is going to take some time for us to build up again.”

Pakistan had offered presidential level security with 4,000 army and police personnel involved in the operation at the cost of millions of pounds. The board now faces substantial financial losses from broadcast and sponsorship deals.

Ramiz Raja, the former Pakistan captain, only took over as chairman of the PCB this week and launched a stinging attack on the New Zealand authorities. “Walking out of the tour by taking a unilateral approach on a security threat is very frustrating,” he tweeted. “Especially when it’s not shared!! Which world is NZ living in?? NZ will hear us at ICC.”

It is hard to see what New Zealand could have done once the warning had been issued by their government which shares intelligence advice with the UK as part of the Five Eyes alliance.

David White, NZC chief executive, said: “I understand this will be a blow for the PCB, who have been wonderful hosts, but player safety is paramount and we believe this is the only responsible option.”

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