The decision for New Zealand to pull out of the tour of Pakistan on the first day has sparked a chain of events that led to the England Cricket Board (ECB) postponing their trip to Pakistan, citing their player’s “mental and physical well-being”. The Australian tour of Pakistan, which is scheduled for February and March 2022, could now be put at risk due to the actions of these cricket boards.
Pakistan have had a difficult relationship with international cricket of late, as they were unable to host cricket against other countries after a 2009 terrorist attack during a Sri Lanka tour of the country. It was only in 2015 that Zimbabwe made the trip over, but since then there has only been tentative steps by major cricketing nations to make that all important return to play cricket in the country.
According to the overseas players that appeared in the Sky Sports documentary “Out of Exile”, they have only good things to say about their experience and welcomed playing more cricket there. Pakistan is a cricket-mad country, their Prime minister Imran Khan is a former captain of the cricket team and they deserve to be treated to quality cricket. Since the incident in 2009, most of the home cricket they played was forced to take place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
There are multiple issues with the decision by the ECB to cancel the men and women’s tour.
Pakistan made the brave decision to come to England and live in a biosecure bubble in the summer of 2020 at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, so as not to leave the ECB without a home test summer and therefore support them financially. As a result of the U-turn made by the ECB, they now face accusations of failing “a member of their cricket fraternity”and hypocrisy due to speculation that the pandemic was a potential reason. Former England captain Charlotte Edwards suggested that the board has a “very short memory.”
The British High Commission of Pakistan distanced themselves from the decision and confirmed that the government had no say in the cancellation of the tour, seemingly ruling out “security concerns” as a plausible reason for the cancellation. The Commission went as far as to offer their support to the progress of cricket’s return to Pakistan.
Widening financial inequality in the international game continues to be a problem, with the “big three” of England, Australia and India distancing themselves. This is not the first tour cancellation by a major nation in recent times, and fear exists that this will not be the last. The future of cricket in these difficult times relies upon these giants of the sport doing all they can to help cricket prosper.