After NZ, England pulls out from Pakistan tour in October- How will this impact cricket in Pakistan?
ECB issued a statement that read, "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."
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced on September 21, 2021 that they have withdrawn from the Pakistan tour that was scheduled to take place in October. ECB had earlier this year agreed to play two additional T20 World Cup warm-up games in Pakistan in October, ahead of the T20 World Cup.
A short women's tour was also scheduled during the same time with double headers alongside the men's team games. The ECB issued an official statement announcing withdrawal from both tours.
The ECB statement read, "ECB Board had convened this weekend to discuss 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 statement acknowledged that the ECB has a longstanding commitment to touring Pakistan as part of the Men's Future Tours Programme in 2022. However, the statement emphasised that the mental and physical well-being of England's players and support staff remains the highest priority of the board.
The board's statement read, "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."
The statement further added, "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."
"We can confirm that the Board has reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip."— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 20, 2021
🇵🇰 #PAKvENG 🏴
ECB noted that the decision will be a significant disappointment to the PCB, which has worked tirelessly to host the return of international cricket in Pakistan. The board apologised for the impact the withdrawal will have on cricket in Pakistan and emphasised an a renewed commitment to complete its main touring plans to Pakistan in 2022.
The test tour had been arranged as an expression of gratitude for Pakistan’s decision to travel to England last summer, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Zealand abandons Pakistan tour
•New Zealand on September 18, 2021 abruptly pulled out of their tour of Pakistan citing a security threat. The statement from the New Zealand Cricket board read, "following an escalation in the New Zealand Government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisors on the ground, it has been decided the BLACKCAPS will not continue with the tour."
•New Zealand was scheduled to play the first of the three ODIs in Rawalpindi on September 18 before moving to Lahore for five T20Is.
•The PCB had responded to the development saying that the board and the Pakistan government had made foolproof security arrangements for all visiting teams and had assured the New Zealand Cricket of the same. PCB stated that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had personally spoken to New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern and informed her that they have one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team.
•New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern had commented on the decision, calling the players' safety "paramount." She said, ""I know how disappointing it will be for everyone that the game hasn't gone ahead, but we totally support the decision that's been made. Player safety has to be paramount."
How will this impact return of cricket to Pakistan?
England's tour of Pakistan was supposed to mark major milestones, as it would have been the first-ever tour by an England women’s cricket team to Pakistan and the first by the England men's cricket team since 2005.
PCB's new chairman Ramiz Raza slammed the pullout with a tweet that read, "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 team to become the best team in the world for teams to line up to play them without making excuses."
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 team to become the best team in the world for teams to line up to play them without making excuses.— Ramiz Raja (@iramizraja) September 20, 2021
Pakistan has been trying to get international teams back to play bilateral series in the country in recent times. While things looked to get better with Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka touring the country, the latest pullout by New Zealand and England have placed a huge blow to the return of cricket to the country.
2009 Terror Attack
A bus carrying Sri Lankan cricketers was fired upon by 12 gunmen near Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium on March 3, 2009. The cricketers were on their way to play the third day of the second test against Pakistan. Six members of the Sri Lankan cricket team were injured in the attack, while six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed.
The attack had a huge impact on cricket in Pakistan with teams reluctant to travel to the country fearing security concerns.
Sri Lanka finally agreed to tour Pakistan for a two-match test series in December 2019, marking the return of test cricket to the country, a decade after the terror attack.