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England pull out of cricket tours of Pakistan

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Police officers stand guard outside the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Friday. AFP

England pull out of cricket tours of Pakistan

England cricket chiefs were warned by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Monday there will be consequences for the decision to withdraw from next month’s white-ball tour citing “increasing concerns about travelling to the region”.

Rawalpindi was due to host men’s and women’s Twenty20 double-headers on October 13 and 14 as England’s men prepare for next month’s T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Heather Knight’s women’s team were then due to play three one-day internationals (ODIs) in the same city.

However, 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 plunged into serious doubt after New Zealand pulled out of their tour of Pakistan on Friday over security fears.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement it had “reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip”.

“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 PCB reacted furiously to the news after their decision to tour England last year despite strict coronavirus regulations saved the ECB millions in television rights deals.

“We accommodate them out of the way and fulfil their wishes. We are the best hosts and when we go there we bear their scolding in quarantine and tolerate that,” said PCB chairman Ramiz Raja

“If we are blocked like this then we will also not accommodate them in future.”

A deadly 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore saw Pakistan become a no-go destination for international teams.

In 2012 and 2015 Pakistan hosted England in the UAE, which has staged most of their “home” games since the attack.

A rapid improvement in security in recent years has led to the return of international cricket, with Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, South Africa and Bangladesh touring in the past six years.

“Pakistan as a nation and as a cricketing board has made countless sacrifices and efforts after six years of exile,” Pakistan Test opener Shan Masood told AFP.

“We have toured to places during Covid to keep the game going, so please be there for us when we need you.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan questioned why the matches could not be moved to the UAE.

“Completely understandable in light of the security issues,” Vaughan tweeted. “But I am surprised it couldn’t have been played in the UAE !! . . . let’s hope things can change & teams can tour Pakistan shortly!”

New Zealand quit

New Zealand last week quit their first tour of Pakistan in 18 years just as the first one-day international of a planned series of three was due to start in Rawalpindi.

The Black Caps had also been due to play five T20 matches in Lahore ahead of the World Cup.

The World Cup was moved from India due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced international cricketers to play in bio-secure bubbles for long stretches since the start of the global health crisis.

New Zealand officials refused to give details of the security threat that forced them to abruptly cancel their matches.

The Black Caps previously cut short a tour in 2002 after a suicide bombing outside their team hotel in Karachi killed 14 people, including 11 French naval engineers.

Pakistan has denied any security threats but the country now faces the risk of further cancellations.

“Cricket fraternity must come together in difficult times but if England and New Zealand did not help us then it could be a domino effect,” added Raja.

England’s men are scheduled to play five ODIs and three Tests in Pakistan in late 2022 and the ECB reiterated its commitment to their plans for next year, thanking the PCB for Pakistan tours of England during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

Cricket Australia has said it is monitoring the situation, gathering information from security experts, before deciding whether to tour Pakistan in February and March next year.

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