England’s men’s and women’s trip to Pakistan, scheduled for next month, is still in doubt following New Zealand Cricket’s decision to leave the country on Friday (September 17) after what they described as a “government safety warning”.
Earlier on Friday, the ECB issued a statement that read: “We are in contact with our security team working in Pakistan to better understand the situation. The ECB Board will then decide in the next 24-48 hours that our planned trip should continue.”
Board has not yet made an official decision but indications are that the two English men’s T20I series matches and the women’s five-match program will be postponed. While it is possible that the two-match series will continue, a source close to the men’s team confirmed to Cricbuzz that they have heard that the tour will be canceled.
When asked about the England series at a press conference today, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Sheikh Rasheed, did not look forward to the possibility of the trip continuing. Although he said preparations were complete for the visit to England, Rasheed appeared to indicate that he thought the ECB would go the same way as the NZC.
That should not surprise us. The ECB uses the same security company as NZC so it is confident that it will get the same details that led to New Zealand withdrawing from Pakistan. The ESI Risk is directed by Reg Dickason, a highly experienced security adviser, the ECB and their trusted players. It is impossible for him to contradict his advice.
The first men’s ODI of the three-match series between Pakistan and New Zealand was scheduled for Friday (September 17) in Rawalpindi. When no player set appeared 30 minutes before the start of the match, it became clear that there was a problem with the game. Initially, the COVID-19 problem was suspected but NZC confirmed that they were leaving the trip following safety advice.
The statement read: “After increasing levels of threats to the New Zealand Government in Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisers, it has been decided that BLACKCAPS will not continue this journey.” NZC chief executive David White said: “I see that this is going to be a contribution to the PCB, which has been the main management, but the safety of the players is very important and we believe this is the only way I can deal with it.”
The nature of the security threat posed by the NZC is not yet known and the PCB issued a statement shortly after confirmation of its departure saying that Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, had assured his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ahern, that there was no threat. The New Zealand delegation had security measures at the presidential level, including special forces in Pakistan.
“The Pakistan Cricket Board and the Government of Pakistan have made unreasonable security arrangements for all visiting teams,” read a PCB statement. “We have confirmed New Zealand Cricket as well. The Prime Minister of Pakistan has spoken to the Prime Minister of New Zealand and informed him that we have one of the best intelligence programs in the world and that there are no security threats of any kind.”
The decision to leave the trip nonetheless met with frustration, disappointment and anger revealed by the PCB. The new chairman of the PCB, Ramiz Raja, wrote on Twitter: “It was a boring day! Have a great deal of sympathy for our fans and players. . “
The ECB sent David Snare of ESI Risk to Pakistan a few weeks ago to review the country’s security plans and at that time, no significant issues were raised as part of his report. The ECB then selected their men’s team to play in the T20 World Cup and confirmed that the full team would travel to Pakistan as it was the beginning of preparations for the tournament.
When the series was announced late last year, it was charged as a historic trip. The English women’s team has never traveled to Pakistan and the men’s team last played there in 2005. The two series were designed to thank the Pakistani men’s team who completed their visit to England last summer, during the start of the epidemic, which played a key role in keeping English cricket financially stable. The England men’s team is expected to travel to Pakistan in the Test series next winter.