England’s cricketers were withdrawn from a trip to Pakistan to play limited-overs matches next month, sparking an angry reaction from the spurned host nation on Monday.
The decision taken by the England and Wales Cricket Board came three days after New Zealand Cricket abandoned its men’s team’s limited-overs tour of Pakistan following a government alert that warned of a possible attack outside Rawalpindi Stadium.
“We know there are increasing concerns about travelling to the region,” the ECB said, “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.”
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja said he was “disappointed with England,” adding on Twitter that the English were “pulling out of their commitment & failing a member of their Cricket fraternity when it needed it most.”
England men’s and women’s teams were scheduled to play Twenty20 matches in Rawalpindi next month.
England’s men have not played an international in Pakistan since 2005 while the women were to visit for the first time. They were due to play three ODIs as well as two T20s.
Pakistan was a no-go zone for international cricket teams for a decade after terrorists attacked the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009. The ambush killed seven people and injured several Sri Lankan cricketers.
International teams resumed touring Pakistan in 2019.
The ECB came to a decision after a board meeting over the weekend. Its statement didn’t directly detail any specific security issues.
“The mental and physical wellbeing of our players and support staff remains our highest priority and this is even more critical given the times we are living in,” the ECB said.
Another “complexity,” the ECB said, was the harm a trip to Pakistan could do to the men’s team’s preparations for the T20 World Cup which begins later in October.
“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 statement said.
“Their support of English and Welsh cricket over the last two summers has been a huge demonstration of friendship. We are sincerely sorry for the impact this will have on cricket in Pakistan and emphasize an ongoing commitment to our main touring plans there for 2022.”