It was a double setback for Pakistan cricket recently as first New Zealand and then England pulled out of their scheduled tours of the country. While the Kiwis abandoned the tour of Pakistan moments ahead of the first ODI in Rawalpindi, citing a security threat, England backtracked before the scheduled series could begin. The ECB claimed that they were concerned about the mental well-being of their players, and hence have decided not to send their men’s and women’s teams. While both security and mental health are seriously genuine concerns, the two reasons don’t hold water when it comes to New Zealand and England in the above cases.
NZC unethical in not sharing threat details with PCB
While there is no written rule as such with regards to teams pulling out of tours, it is basic etiquette that two cricket boards have a discussion before arriving at a conclusion. In New Zealand’s case, this was definitely not done. First and foremost, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) allowed its players to travel to Pakistan following all the clearances by their security experts.
They trained in Pakistan for a number of days and were provided tight security. Now, if there was indeed a security threat to the team, why wasn’t it shared with Pakistan Cricket Board? The PCB had every right to know what New Zealand’s concerns were, after all they were hosting the Kiwis, and would have been in trouble if anything had gone wrong during the tour. New Zealand’s decision to chicken out of the tour was completely uncalled for.
Also, it was totally unethical of NZC not to share details of the supposed security threat with PCB. As former Pakistan captain, Salman Butt rightly pointed out, by taking a unilateral decision, the ‘good boys’ of the game have set a very dangerous precedent. What it could mean is that, in the future, teams could decide to pull out of tours giving flimsy reasons, like the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have just done. New Zealand owe an explanation to Pakistan and world cricket as well. Remember, Pakistan toured New Zealand with the pandemic very much spreading. That’s not all. It’s not as if the Kiwis have been able to guarantee touring teams safety.
Remember how the Bangladesh cricketers narrowly escaped the mosque attack in Christchurch? Did teams refuse to travel to the country after that? Definitely not. In fact, Bangladesh themselves visited New Zealand earlier this year and cricket has been least affected by the Christchurch incident. This is in complete contrast to what happened with Pakistan following the 2009 Lahore bus attack on the Sri Lankan team.
England have stabbed Pakistan in the back
As for ECB, England have literally stabbed Pakistan in the back. Pakistan had accepted a request from England last year to play a series in England. This was at the height of the pandemic. Not only did them come, despite all the prevalent risks, but completing the tour without raising any issues despite the hardships they would have faced due to quarantine and bio-bubble issues.
It may be argued that Pakistan needed to play cricket as well but that’s another matter altogether. England were indebted to return the favour to Pakistan. And, with their star players in the bio-bubble in the IPL, does ECB really want us to believe that mental health is the reason for the Pakistan tour cancellation. As former England captain Mike Atherton rightly pointed out in his refreshingly frank column in thetimes.co.uk, “If security advice is the reason for the cancellation, that would be totally understandable, but to cite Covid fatigue, effectively, is to have a short memory of what touring teams, not least Pakistan, went through in England last summer at the height of the pandemic, so helping to save the professional game from financial catastrophe.
”The most pertinent point to note here is that the security agencies – both NZC and ECB share the same one – did not upgrade the threat level as far as visiting Pakistan was concerned. Yet, New Zealand and England came up with their own reasons to abandon a team that had helped them out in need. By doing so, New Zealand and England have failed not only Pakistan but the game as a whole.