England cancels cricket tours of Pakistan over security concerns

Men’s and women’s tours cancelled just three days after New Zealand abandoned tour over security fears.

Pakistan was a no-go zone for international cricket teams for a decade after armed fighters attacked the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009 [Waseem Khan/Reuters]

England’s cricketers will not travel for matches in Pakistan next month because of security concerns.

The decision, taken by the England and Wales Cricket Board on Monday, came three days after New Zealand Cricket abandoned its men’s team’s limited-overs tour of Pakistan following a government alert that warned of a possible attack outside Rawalpindi Stadium.

“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.”

England men’s and women’s teams were scheduled to play Twenty20 matches in Rawalpindi next month.

“Disappointed with England, pulling out of their commitment & failing a member of their Cricket fraternity when it needed it most,” the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman and former cricketer Ramiz Raja said on Twitter.

“Survive we will inshallah. A wake up call for Pak team to become the best team in the world for teams to line up to play them without making excuses.”

England’s men have not played an international in Pakistan since 2005 while the women were to visit for the first time. They were due to play three ODIs, as well as two T20s.

Pakistan was a no-go zone for international cricket teams for a decade after armed fighters attacked the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009.

The ambush killed seven people and injured several Sri Lankan cricketers.

International teams resumed touring Pakistan in 2019.

After nearly 10 years spent trying to woo back cricket’s international elite, Pakistan is facing the prospect of being declared the game’s no-go area again, and the anger is palpable.

“We understand that this decision will be a significant disappointment to the PCB, who have worked tirelessly to host the return of international cricket in their country,” the ECB statement added.

“Their support of English and Welsh cricket over the last two summers has been a huge demonstration of friendship. We are sincerely sorry for the impact this will have on cricket in Pakistan and emphasise an ongoing commitment to our main touring plans there for 2022.”

England’s move is a massive setback for the cricket-crazy nation which moved heaven and earth to project itself as a safe destination and won tour commitments from several leading teams.

“It’s been pretty gut-wrenching,” the PCB chief executive Wasim Khan told a virtual news conference late on Sunday.

“We have done a huge amount of work in building our credibility back up again in world cricket. The rug has been pulled out from under our feet as quick as that.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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