The English Cricket Committee (ECB) decided on Monday to cancel its tour of Pakistan, after New Zealand withdrew its team at the last minute before the series due to “safety” reasons.
Expressing regret, ECB said, “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, however, said the “mental and physical well-being” of its players and support staff remains their highest priority, and this was even more critical given the times “we are currently living in”.
The England men’s and women’s teams were originally scheduled to play two 2020 matches in Rawalpindi on October 13th and 14th. The women’s team will also have three ODI games in Pakistan on October 17, 19 and 21.
The ECB said it had a “longstanding commitment” to tour Pakistan as part of the Men’s Future Tours Programme in 2022, as it had agreed to play two additional T20 World Cup warm-up games in October, adding a short women’s tour with double headers alongside the men’s games.
“The ECB Board convened this weekend to discuss these extra England Women’s and Men’s games in Pakistan and we can confirm that the Board has reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip,” the board said in a statement.
“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 statement added.
The ECB said there was an “added complexity” for its men’s T20 squad, as it believes that touring under “these conditions” would not be ideal preparation for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, where performing well remains a top priority for 2021.
The ECB acknowledged PCB’s support over the last two summers, which it termed had 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,” it added.
PCB is looking forward to this decision because it has scheduled the national T20 Cup final on October 13, the day England will play its first match in Pakistan.