A watchful PCB is ready to do what it can – health and safety permitting – to ensure that its summer tour to England goes ahead. A panel of the board’s executives and directors as well as head coach Misbah-ul-Haq will meet its ECB counterparts on May 15 over a video link to take the discussion forward.
The PCB is likely to seek a number of assurances from England around the situation in that country with regards to the Covid-19 pandemic. The UK has been one of the hardest-hit countries in the world in terms of infections and deaths, and has been in lockdown since the end of March. But, on Sunday evening, prime minister Boris Johnson announced a series of slow, gradual stages through which the lockdown will be eased.
There have been suggestions that Pakistan touring this summer could have a favourable impact on England’s next scheduled tour to Pakistan, in 2021 – the PCB is keen to push harder on touring teams visiting the country now for home series rather than travelling the UAE. But Wasim Khan, the PCB chief executive, said the summer tour wouldn’t be seen through that lens.
“It’s a tough situation for everyone right now, and I don’t think it’s fair to take advantage of the situation,” Khan told reporters in Lahore. “The most important thing for us is to revive the game for all countries. If we don’t, we will be facing a lot of problems going forward.
“The longer they stay there, the more our players will be exposed. So there is speculation that the tour might be extended, but I can confirm that this is presently not on the table”
“The next 12 months will be tough for cricket financially… thankfully, the PCB is fine for the next 12 months but thereafter, in 18 months’ time, we will also have problems. Hopefully, by then, cricket will resume and I don’t think we are going to take our discussion with the ECB (with the reciprocal tour in mind), but we will definitely talk about it when we tour them. Look, the MCC toured Pakistan, an Australia delegation came as well, so there is no reason why England and Australia shouldn’t be here in 2021 and 2022.”
As such, from the point of view of the PCB, the May 15 meeting will largely be about understanding the ECB’s plans about the resumption of cricket, and it is also expecting an update following ECB’s meeting with UK government departments vis-à-vis medical safety arrangements, logistics and the SOPs within the ground.
Pakistan were not the only scheduled visitors this summer to England – West Indies were supposed to play a three-Test series in June-July. Reports have suggested that planning is underway within the ECB to set up a bio-secure environment in which six Tests can be played in July and August.
Pakistan plans of a European summer has already been affected, with the series of three ODIs in the Netherlands postponed indefinitely with the Dutch government banning all sporting and cultural events till September 1. The tour of Ireland is also unlikely to go ahead, with Pakistan’s first Test against England slotted for a July 30 start at Lord’s, followed by fixtures at Old Trafford and Trent Bridge. If the tour does take place, it will run till September 2, with the last of a three-match T20I series.
“Health and safety is paramount for our players and officials and we are not going to compromise on it,” Khan stressed. “The situation in England is poor right now, and we will ask them about their plans. We are not making any decisions, but we will assess and decide in next three to four weeks.
“This isn’t an easy situation, and it isn’t an easy decision to make, because things are changing every day in England. There are so many things to be considered – flights, hotels and they are talking about bio-security stadiums… so if people ask me, I will tell them to wait and be patient.
“The longer they stay there, the more our players will be exposed. So there is speculation that the tour might be extended, but I can confirm that this is presently not on the table. The West Indies tour to England is also uncertain, and we don’t know what to expect. So we are looking forward to the May 15 meeting and will see what are the options.”