THE Pakistan Cricket Board’s decision in principle to allow the team to tour England in late July for three Test matches and an equal number of T20 games has been well received. Cricket, like all other sports, has been severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic which has either forced cancellation or postponement of a number of scheduled series on the international circuit. So the news of the tour going ahead has come as a relief to fans in both countries. With Pakistan having played some very exciting cricket during the last two England tours, the upcoming series is bound to attract top broadcasters who bring in a major share of revenue for the boards whose coffers are fast being depleted. Having said that, the agreement between the England and Pakistan cricket boards is just the first step. Much will depend on the extent and intensity of the pandemic.
The ECB has briefed the PCB about the strict measures that will be in place for the Pakistan team to guard against the virus. The players would arrive in England early July and be quarantined for 15 days after which they would start training and play practice matches before the first Test likely to begin on Aug 5. The team is to be treated as a ‘family unit’ with no visitors or outsiders allowed to enter the place where the players stay. The team is set to travel with an unusually large contingent of 25 men to cover both Tests and T20s and to play inter-squad matches. And last but not the least, they will be playing in empty stadiums which is a big challenge in itself. Indeed, these are extraordinary measures to cope with extraordinary times. The PCB has acted wisely by leaving the final choice to the players to tour or not. Although most might want to play if things improve, those opting out would be within their rights to do so. If risks remain, the PCB itself should review its decision.
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2020