‘Heartbroken, disappointed & betrayed by England’s withdrawal from Pakistan tour’
Aatif Nawaz is a Test Match Special commentator as well as a comedian, writer and actor. Here he reveals the depth of feeling among Pakistan cricket fans about England’s decision not to play in the upcoming tour.
Heartbroken, disappointed and betrayed.
It’s been more than 24 hours since news of England pulling out next month’s tour to Pakistan was announced, but these are three words I’d still use to describe how I feel.
First New Zealand’s men cancelled their tour of Pakistan because of a “specific and credible threat”, then just four days later England also withdrew.
England’s men were to play Pakistan in two Twenty20s on 13 and 14 October in Rawalpindi, that were also double-headers with the women.
The women were then due to play one-day internationals on 17, 19 and 21 October.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) did not focus their reasoning on a credible threat.
Their statement, which I personally think was quite vague, said there were “increasing concerns about travelling to the region” and “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.”
Meanwhile Christian Turner, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, has released a Twitter video saying ‘the British High Commission supported the tour, did not advise against it on security grounds’.
I thought after a day I would calm down and look at things more objectively – or maybe I’d see England’s perspective. But I really don’t.
England should have toured Pakistan and, in my opinion, it was a selfish decision not to do so.
‘England could have been Pakistan’s knight in shining armour’
Let’s start with the men’s team.
New Zealand pulled out at the 11th hour, leaving Pakistan like a jilted lover.
The same thing just happened to England two weeks ago when the Indian team pulled the plug on the Old Trafford Test at the 11th hour.
The ECB should know better than anyone how that feels and should have responded in in a more gracious and understanding way.
They had this wonderful opportunity to be the knight in shining armour for Pakistan, but they opted not to take it.
England’s statement said “we believe that touring under these conditions will not be ideal preparation for the T20 World Cup”.
But you’re playing one of the best teams in the world, against players like Shaheen Shah Afridi and Babar Azam ahead of a T20 World Cup. Is that not ideal preparation?
‘Pakistan needed you’
I understand the impact touring can have on players’ mental health and wellbeing and I would never minimise mental health which is a very serious thing, but what about the mental health of the Pakistani players who spent nearly three months in isolation in England last year?
The West Indies and Pakistan came to England’s rescue when they needed them.
They spent three months in quarantine in the most difficult of scenarios and played England – and did them that favour.
The ECB were so proud of it on social media and saying thank you to Pakistan, that they would appreciate it.
There was even an emoji of fist bumps. Well, where is that fist when Pakistan needed you right now?
And with the England women’s first-ever tour to Pakistan, it would have been just so historic.
Women’s cricket is a huge thing in Pakistan.
There were more people excited about this series than the men’s because they understood what it meant and what a powerful statement it would have been to see England and Pakistan’s women playing.
With a Women’s World Cup next year, again, how is the series not ideal preparation?