England Cricket Board's decision to cancel their men's and women's teams' October tours of Pakistan has been met with heavy criticism from the host nation's cricket board, but also the Government.
On Tuesday, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry implied that England and also New Zealand cricket teams' decision was a result of Prime Minister Imran Khan saying "absolutely not" to the US on using Pakistan as a base for the latter's Afghan operations, the Express Tribune reported.
High Commissioner Distances From ECB Decision
Soon after the comment, but in a seemingly unrelated move, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan Cristian Turner released a video in which he asserts that the ECB is "independent" of the British Government and that the Government had not advised against withdrawing from the tour.
“This was a decision made by the ECB, which is independent of the British government, based on concerns for player welfare. The British High Commission supported the tour, did not advise against it on security grounds and our travel advice for Pakistan has not changed,” said Turner in the video.
Next month's tour was to be the England men's team's first trip to Pakistan since 2005 and the first-ever for the women's team but after New Zealand cancelled their tour just hours before the series-opener on Friday citing security concerns, the ECB too made their decision on similar grounds.
“I have been a champion of international cricket’s return to Pakistan and will redouble my efforts in advance of England’s autumn 2022 tour,” Turner further says in his video, while also adding, “I hope that we’ll soon hear the roar of full cricket stadiums again. In the end cricket will be victorious.”
In the press release announcing the withdrawal from the series on Monday, the ECB had said they were making the decision to prioritise the "mental and physical well-being" of their players and support staff.
"The mental and physical well-being of our players and support staff remains our highest priority. 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. There is the added complexity for our Men's T20 squad. We believe that touring under these conditions will not be ideal preparation for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, where performing well remains a top priority for 2021," the ECB said in their statement.
Pak Minister Blames Political Move
In a press briefing after a cabinet meeting chaired by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said England and New Zealand cricket boards' decision was due to political reasons.
"If you say 'absolutely not', then there's a price that you have to pay,"he said in response to a question about the cabinet's discussion on the back-to-back withdrawals by England and New Zealand, adding: "I think the nation is ready to pay the price and tackle such challenges."
Chaudhry said the back-to-back withdrawals by the New Zealand and England cricket teams have caused a loss of roughly Rs 200 million to Rs 250 million to the Pakistan Television (PTV) alone.
"We have initiated discussions with our lawyers to examine how we can take them to the courts," Chaudhry said, adding: "This is an extremely unfortunate development."