England withdrew from their joint men’s and women’s tour of Pakistan next month, citing concerns over their party’s “mental and physical well-being” and eliciting an angry backlash from their potential hosts.
The limited historic trip to Rawalpindi, reportedly the first for an England women’s team and the first of its male counterparts since 2005, was in doubt following New Zealand’s hasty departure from the country on Friday.
As the Black Caps withdrew after what they called a “specific and credible” threat to their team, and following intervention by the New Zealand government, the England and Country Cricket Council of Wales seemed to indicate that a more general unease around the visit had caused him to back down.
In a statement announcing the decision, the ECB spoke of “growing concerns about travel in the region”, the time spent by players in restricted environments and preparations for the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup.
There has also been an apology in Pakistan and a renewed commitment to complete a full test tour in 2022, but the initial reaction from them suggests there are now considerable bridges to be rebuilt.
The white ball tour was organized in part to express gratitude for Pakistan’s decision to help save England’s international summer last year, traveling at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
PCB chairman Ramiz Raja took to Twitter shortly after the announcement, writing: ‘Disappointed with England, withdrawing from his engagement and failing a member of his cricket fraternity as he needed it most. Survive, we will inshallah. A wake-up call for Team Pak to become the best team in the world for teams to line up to play them without looking for excuses.
Speaking to BBC World Service, Ramiz was more forceful.
He said, “This is absurd. We have done our best to welcome the international teams.
“I am extremely disappointed and so are the fans. Right now we needed England.
“It’s a little cricket fraternity that we have. We expected England to be a little more responsible. We are hurt, but we will move forward.
Ramiz said Pakistan felt “aggrieved” by the withdrawals from England and New Zealand.
He added: “When Pakistan needed the Western bloc, they did not support us.
“Safety can be a problem anywhere in the world. We feel aggrieved by the way things have been handled by the Western bloc.
“They can cite mental fatigue, but it’s not enough.”
The ECB’s statement was a longer rhetorical exercise that is unlikely to dampen frustration or force Birmingham-born PCB chief executive Wasim Khan to reassess the views he relayed on Sunday night.
In a conference call with reporters, he underscored his hope and belief that England will meet their timetable, saying the most recent security assessments offered no reason to cancel.
“Earlier this year, we agreed to play two more warm-up matches for the T20 World Cup in Pakistan in October, adding a short women’s tour with double heads alongside the men’s matches,” the ECB statement continued. .
“The ECB board met over the weekend to discuss these additional men’s and women’s matches in England in Pakistan and we can confirm that the board reluctantly decided to remove both teams from the game. October trip.
“The mental and physical well-being of our players and support staff remains our top priority and this is even more critical given the times we live in today.
“We know there is growing concern about travel to the region and believe moving forward will add further pressure to a group of players who have already faced a long period of exploitation. in restricted Covid environments.
“There is additional complexity for our T20 men’s team. We believe that going on tour in these conditions will not be an ideal preparation for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, where performing well remains a top priority for 2021. “
There was also a note of contrition, the statement concluding: “We understand that this decision will be a major disappointment for the PCB, who have worked tirelessly to welcome the return of international cricket to their country.
“Their support for English and Welsh cricket over the past two summers has been a huge show of friendship. We sincerely apologize for the impact this will have on cricket in Pakistan and emphasize continued commitment to our major touring plans there for 2022. ”
Clare Connor, Executive Director of Women’s Cricket at the ECB, told ESPNCricinfo: “It’s extremely sad. We have had a lot of meetings in the last few days, with everything that has happened in this part of the world, and it is desperately sad for Pakistani cricket and for the fans in this part of the world who are desperate to support their players and see cricket live in their country.
“It’s very disappointing – our players were excited about the prospect of a historic tour for English women in Pakistan and taking international women’s cricket to this part of the world would have been something they looked forward to and would have enjoyed. been proud., but it is not.
England had previously agreed to postpone a separate Bangladesh tour, also originally scheduled for October, and pulled out of a one-day run in South Africa in December due to mental health issues linked to an outbreak of Covid.
They were on the other side of things earlier this month when India decided it was unable to play the fifth test at Emirates Old Trafford following positive cases in their camp.
In summary, the international calendar is twisting in a variety of pressure points as the constraints of playing during a pandemic and the uncertain state of security in some regions begin to be felt.