Sports, Asia - Pacific

England cricket team ‘reluctantly’ cancels Pakistan tour

Development comes days after New Zealand abruptly called off its tour

Aamir Latif   | 20.09.2021
England cricket team ‘reluctantly’ cancels Pakistan tour

KARACHI, Pakistan

The England cricket board on Monday announced it is "reluctantly" withdrawing both its men's and women's teams from their tour of Pakistan slated for next month.

"We can confirm that the Board has reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip," the board said in a Twitter post.

The development came days after the New Zealand cricket team called off its Pakistan tour minutes before the first One-Day match in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, citing a "potential threat" to its players.

According to the New Zealand media, the Black Caps had abandoned their tour last week following a threat alert that came from Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance of the US, UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.

Pakistan, for its part, regretted the abrupt decision that literally shocked the cricket-frenzy nation, terming its security arrangements "foolproof".

Kiwis had abandoned their tour in 2002 as well after a suicide attack on French engineers outside the hotel where the players were staying in the southern port city of Karachi.

International cricket returned to the South Asian nuclear country in May 2015, following the Zimbabwe tour of Pakistan after a six-year hiatus.

Since then, several international teams, including South Africa, West Indies, and Sri Lanka have played in Pakistan.

Local stadiums had been left deserted since the tipping point in 2009 when seven of the Sri Lankan team were shot in an ambush by heavily armed militants in the northeastern city Lahore. In the same attack, six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed.

‘We feel sorry’

The Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman, Ramiz Raja, in a quick reaction, declared the England cricket board’s decision "disappointing."

"Disappointed with England, pulling out of their commitment and failing a member of their cricket fraternity when it needed it most," the former Pakistan Captain said in a tweet.

“Survive we will Inshallah (God willing)," he further said, 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."

Later in a statement, the England cricket board said: "The mental and physical well-being 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," it went on to say.

The board said it understands that the decision will be a "significant" disappointment to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) that has 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," the statement further said, adding: "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."

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