Monty Panesar decries the controversial decision by the English Cricket Board to turn its back on Pakistan by cancelling the England tour
By Rory Poulter
30th Sep 2021 | Local Features
The more fear you have, the less is the possibility of freedom.
In this case – it seems – the ECB made their decision out of fear and now some are labelling them as cowards.
The New Zealand team was the first to cancel its tour of Pakistan earlier this year, citing security concerns.
By contrast, we are told that the ECB cancelled tours of Pakistan by both the England men's and women's teams due to concerns over 'mental and physical wellbeing'.
They had the opportunity to go against their anxiety and in its place provide an example to other cricketing nations that it is safe to tour Pakistan. Sadly, the failure to do so has created a divide with the Pakistan Cricket Board.
Before taking this decision, the ECB should have given more consideration to what Pakistan did for them in 2020 – a time when there was no Covid vaccine.
The Pakistan players and support staff spent two months in a strict bio-bubble in order to make sure games went ahead and, as a result, helped the ECB to avoid huge losses.
The newly appointed chairmen of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Ramiz Raja, is rightly extremely disappointed that England is not returning the favour.
There has been a suggestion that the England players did not want to tour Pakistan because of what has become known as 'bio-bubble exhaustion'. However, the England cricketer's union has denied that the players were involved in the decision.
The ECB described their decision in these terms: "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."
Regardless of what is claimed, I think the Afghanistan occupation by the Taliban and the problems of Covid bubbles and player quarantine are the real reason the ECB decided to cancel the tour.
For the England players the tour cancellation would have come to a relief as now they can play in the knockout stages in the IPL. That is followed by the T20 World Cup, which begins on October 23, with the Ashes to follow and the men's tour of Caribbean scheduled in early 2022.
The tour of Pakistan would have been the perfect opportunity as a warm-up for the T20 World Cup.
The British government said it was safe to tour and Boris Johnson is absolutely furious with the ECB as it will impact the relationship between the two nations.
Clearly, having two tours cancelled is a major setback for Pakistan. Now the PCB chairman believes the aim should be to become the best team in the world to avoid international teams cancelling in the future.
The sad reality is that Pakistan risks losing more tours in the future. Australia are scheduled to tour in February 2022 and it is to be hoped that this goes ahead.
Looking ahead, the International Cricket Council and other cricket nations, particularly the ECB, must come together to encourage teams to tour Pakistan.
In 2022, the ECB must go beyond their means to accommodate Pakistan. Like Martin Luther King Jr said: "Life's persistent and most urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"
Next year, cricket fans will be asking: "What will the ECB be doing for Pakistan and the Pakistan Cricket Board?". Perhaps the answer will be an agreement to tour Pakistan.