Pakistan have lost faith in English cricket and the promise of a tour in 2022, with contingency plans set to be drawn up amid a belief they will once again be left in the lurch.
The decision by England to cancel a short visit to Pakistan next month and renege on their show of gratitude for the biosecure summer tour last year has drawn widespread criticism with Ramiz Raja, chair of the Pakistan Cricket Board, saying his country feels “used and binned”.
Dr Christian Turner, British High Commissioner to Pakistan, also distanced himself from the ECB’s call on Tuesday, insisting the tour had full government support, there was no advice against it on security grounds and he will “redouble” efforts to ensure the Test and limited-overs trip next year goes ahead.
Turner said: “This was a decision made by the ECB, which is independent of the British government and based on concerns for player welfare. Our travel advice for Pakistan has not changed.”
Ramiz, just over a week into his tenure and already burned by New Zealand’s withdrawal from their tour last Friday because of a security threat made against the team, claims his conversations with Ian Watmore, chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board, left him unconvinced the 2022 trip will materialise.
Asked about this, the former Pakistan opener replied: “I spoke about this with Ian [Watmore] as well. I said, what is the guarantee of England coming back and playing here in 2022? Because a month before that tour you can easily quote tiredness, players being spooked again, sick of living in a bubble, or a threat perception that will once again be not shared with us. He clearly had no answer to that. So we’ll have a back-up plan for sure.”
The ECB appears content to absorb the heat coming its way, with Monday’s statement on the cancellation of a tour that featured both the England men’s and women’s teams – one that cited player wellbeing and “increasing concerns about travelling to the region” – its only public comment thus far.
The tour was cleared by the ECB’s security consultants, ESI Risk, and players were not directly canvassed for their views. The governing body instead liaised with the Professional Cricketers’ Association, as well as Richard Bevan from the Team England Player Partnership and England Women’s Player Partnership, both of which represent centrally contracted cricketers.
That said, Ramiz revealed that his talks with Watmore focused solely on the men’s element of the tour – two Twenty20 internationals during a four-day visit – with the women’s two T20s and three ODIs not discussed “at all”. Heather Knight, the England women’s captain, said on Tuesday that she was not consulted by the ECB and it was “a board decision”.
“Ian [Watmore] appeared as if the decision was out of his hands,” Raja said. “There were other influences who really made the call on his behalf. England’s take was not security. It was players being spooked and uncomfortable, and the players’ association being iffy.”
It has not been lost on Pakistan that the cancellation allows nine of England’s 18-man squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup – including the captain, Eoin Morgan – to remain with their Indian Premier League franchises until the end of the tournament in the United Arab Emirates, despite talk of bubble burnout.
“It’s a fantastic dichotomy isn’t it?” said Raja. “Quoting fatigue and mental tension, players being spooked. But Dubai is an hour and a half away and so before the T20 World Cup they’re happy to be caged in a bubble and carry on in that tournament. One feels slighted and humiliated.”
Pakistan had offered to move the tour from Rawalpindi to Lahore, allowing players to stay on site at the PCB’s national academy facility that neighbours the ground, but saw both this and the idea of England sending a below-strength side that consisted of willing tourists declined by the ECB.
It has left Pakistan’s home season in tatters, with Ramiz fancying West Indies will be “jittery” ahead of visits by their men and women in November and December. The 59-year-old is also fully expecting Australia to cancel their tour in February as part of the so-called “Western Bloc”.
Asked if the International Cricket Council might step in, Ramiz replied: “Nothing will come out of it. [But] we need to coexist with honour and dignity. You can’t treat certain boards roughly, use us and then bin us.
“If you work in little compartments, politicising the game of cricket to get the best matches and forget the rest, it will hit you and the rest eventually.”