Tuesday Sep 28, 2021
There is no doubt that the New Zealand and England cricket teams abandoning the Pakistan tour at the last moment is a massive setback to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). The Board has been relentlessly trying to revive cricket tours by foreign countries since 2009, when home internationals were suspended in the aftermath of a terror attack in Pakistan’s city Lahore.
Despite some concerns in the past, more recently foreign teams began returning to Pakistan, proving that they felt safe and comfortable playing here.
Many notable international players visited Pakistan regularly, which made Pakistan’s case strong.
Then came New Zealand's decision to pull out of a scheduled tour. Its sudden withdrawal could not have come at a worse time for Pakistan, as far as Pakistan’s home cricket calendar is concerned.
Pakistani fans were looking forward to an exciting season of cricket, including a tour by Australia. Whether Australia will now visit Pakistan or not, is unclear.
After the New Zealand debacle, what the English Cricket Board (ECB) did was not unexpected, though it was unjustified.
“The Board has reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip,” the ECB said in a statement, adding that the mental and physical well-being of its players and support staff remains its “highest priority and this is even more critical given the times we are currently living in.”
The statement is vague and does not point out any particular reason for their decision. Instead, it created more ambiguity and confusion. More so, when the Team England Player Partnership (TEPP), which represents England’s international players, said that the cricketers were not asked for input before the decision was made.
“At no stage did TEPP inform the ECB that the players would not be touring,” TEPP chair Richard Bevan was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo. Bevan further added that the ECB didn’t even ask the TEPP or the teams, men and women, whether the tour should go ahead or whether players were prepared to tour Pakistan.
“It is 100% incorrect to suggest TEPP intervened to say the players would not tour,” he said.
The ECB further landed in hot water when the British media reported that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed anger at the England and Wales Cricket Board’s decision to cancel the tour.
That anger was also being felt in Pakistan. The PCB’s new chairman Ramiz Raja tweeted that he was “disappointed” with England.
But now here is the tricky part, especially for Pakistan.
We have to deal with the current situation as diplomatically as we can to keep the cricketing business running and to avoid earlier disasters.
Pakistan’s cricket suffered a massive financial and emotional loss after 2009 when international teams refused to visit Pakistan to play.
From the PCB's point of view, we cannot adopt an aggressive approach and take on the other cricketing boards head-on, especially when the so-called “Big 3” are already not in favour of Pakistan due to India’s influence on the International Cricket Council.
What can we do then?
As of now, we should seek to reschedule the abandoned New Zealand and England tours. We should also plan the upcoming Pakistan Super League on a massive scale to lure back top international players.
The era of Ramiz Raja has just started. Let’s hope we see the positive impact of his plans and above all, international cricket comes back to Pakistan and this time stays.
Khurram Siddiqi is a senior media professional and member of staff. He writes about sports and politics. He tweets @Siddiqi__