The England and Wales Cricket Board’s decision to pull their men’s and women’s teams out of their series in Pakistan next month is set to come under more scrutiny after the British High Commissioner to the country, Christian Turner, confirmed that his team did not advise the ECB against touring on security grounds.
While the decision to cancel the England tours did not come as a surprise following New Zealand’s abandonment of their own tour to Pakistan last week citing a security threat, the ECB’s reasoning, which centred on concerns for player well-being rather than security, was unexpected and has left them open to accusations of picking and choosing their assignments.
It is now clear that the advice given to the ECB was that it was safe to travel to Pakistan. As well as Turner’s confirmation that the government’s advice did not change, Cricbuzz has been told that the ECB’s own security assessment, carried out by consultancy ESI Risk and which gave the green light for the England tour to progress three weeks ago, has not changed either.
In a video posted on Twitter, Turner said: “I share the deep sadness of cricket fans that England will not tour Pakistan in October. This was a decision made by the ECB, which is independent of the British government, based on concerns for player welfare. The British High Commission supported the tour, did not advise against it on security grounds and our travel advice for Pakistan has not changed.
“I have been a champion of international cricket’s return to Pakistan and will redouble my efforts in advance of England’s autumn 2022 tour. My thanks to all at the PCB who have worked so hard in support of that. I hope that we will hear the roar of full cricket stadiums again. In the end, cricket will be victorious.”
England have now abandoned or postponed tours to South Africa, Bangladesh and Pakistan since the pandemic struck while they have hosted a full programme of cricket, barring the final Test against India earlier this month, in both of their last two home summers. This has prompted accusations of double standards, notably from PCB chairman Ramiz Raja, who was keen to emphasise that Pakistan have fulfilled two tours to England since COVID struck.
While concerns for player well-being are understandable, it is ironic that the ECB’s statement said the tour was cancelled partly because of the amount of time their players had spent in restricted environments. Nine of their T20 World Cup party are currently playing in the IPL, living in restricted conditions in the UAE, at a time when they could have been resting at home in the UK.
Given the lack of security concerns, the ECB could also have explored other options to get the tour on. It could have allowed players who wanted an extra break to sit out the short trip and fill the men’s and women’s squads up with those who were willing to go. After all, England successfully picked a second-string men’s team against Pakistan this summer following a COVID outbreak during the ODI series and emerged victorious.