After New Zealand, England too call off Pakistan tour

Wednesday 22nd September 2021 07:56 EDT

First it was New Zealand which abruptly abandoned their tour of Pakistan citing a security alert in a massive blow to the South Asian country's hopes of staging regular international cricket. Following the footsteps of New Zealand, England also withdrew their men’s and women’s teams from next month’s white-ball series in Pakistan citing “increasing concerns about travelling to the region”. The historic trip, which would have been the first ever by an England women’s team and the first by their male counterparts since 2005, was in serious doubt from the moment New Zealand pulled out of their own series in Pakistan last week over security fears.

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) then issued a statement announcing their decision to call off the tour. "Following an escalation in the New Zealand Government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisors on the ground, it has been decided the Blackcaps will not continue with the tour," it said. NZC declined to share details of the security threat and said arrangements were being made for the team's departure. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told her Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan that the cricket team could have been attacked, Pakistan's Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed told reporters. Pakistan security agencies did not have any such information, he added.

Meanwhile, Rawalpindi was due to host England men’s and women’s Twenty20 double-headers on October 13 and 14 as their men prepare for next month’s T20 World Cup. Heather Knight’s women’s team were then due to play one-day internationals (ODIs) on October 17, 19 and 21, also in Rawalpindi.

“The ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) board convened this weekend to discuss these extra England women’s and men’s games in Pakistan and we can confirm that the board has reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip,” the ECB said in a statement. “The mental and physical well-being of our players and support staff remains our highest priority and this is even more critical given the times we are currently living in.

“We know there are increasing concerns about travelling to the region and believe that going ahead will add further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted Covid environments.” The move is a bitter blow for Pakistan, which became a no-go area for international teams after a deadly 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore.

Pakistan cricket chief Ramiz Raja said England had failed his nation’s cricket team by pulling out of the tour. “Disappointed with England, pulling out of their commitment and failing a member of their cricket fraternity when it needed it most,” tweeted the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman.

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