LONDON: England cricketers will tour Pakistan next year for the first time since a deadly 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team bus, the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced on Wednesday.
England will play two Twenty20 Internationals in Karachi on Oct 14 and 15 in a move hailed as a ‘significant moment for both nations’ by the ECB’s chief executive officer Tom Harrison.
“It’s a real pleasure to announce that the England men’s IT20 squad will be playing in Pakistan in October 2021,” said Harrison in a statement. “This will be the first time since 2005 that an England team has toured Pakistan and as such it represents a significant moment for both nations.”
Harrison added that the priority would be to ensure the squad operated under the greatest security possible.
Will play two T20 Internationals in Karachi next October
“As always, the safety and welfare of our players and staff will be paramount,” he said. “We are working closely with the PCB to ensure all the necessary plans are in place, especially concerning the anticipated levels of security around the team, the proposed travel protocols and of course the situation regarding the fast-moving and ever-changing Covid-19 pandemic.”
His Pakistan counterpart Wasim Khan said England’s tour was confirmation of the positive steps Pakistan had taken in assuring security for visiting teams.
“England’s visit to Pakistan for the 14 and 15 October 2021 T20Is will provide further lift to our passionate fans,” said Wasim in a statement. “The nation has waited patiently for cricket to return sustainably to Pakistan and the 2021 tours by South Africa, New Zealand and England will only ensure international cricket is played uninterruptedly.
“The enhanced progress made over the last two years has been down to nurturing relationships with various cricket boards and international players, as well as building trust and confidence.
“The ECB’s confirmation further endorses Pakistan as safe and secure.”
England had tentatively suggested they would tour in early 2021 but due to prior commitments to Sri Lanka and India they would have been compelled to field a second string squad.
The Twenty20 internationals will serve as a warm-up for the World Cup being hosted by India in October and November.
Pakistan gained favour with the ECB in going ahead with their tour of England earlier this year — as did the West Indies — despite the restrictions placed on the squad due to coronavirus protocols.
Pakistan played three Tests and three Twenty20 Internationals in England.
“Importantly, this announcement speaks volumes for the relationship that we have with the ECB,” said Wasim. “I would like to thank the ECB for their strong will and desire to make this short tour a reality.”
England all-rounder Moeen Ali agreed that Pakistan’s fulfilling their tour commitment played a role but added England going there would have more positive far-reaching consequences.
“It’s a massive moment for cricket going forward,” Moeen said via conference call from Cape Town ahead of a Twenty20 International series against South Africa. “I think it is right we go back after such a long time for the game itself and for Pakistan and cricket in the country. We can’t wait to go there.”
International cricket in Pakistan was put on hold in 2009 after gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus during the second Test in Lahore, killing eight people and wounding several players and officials.
England have subsequently played Pakistan on neutral territory in the United Arab Emirates but Pakistan had said that any future tour would have to be in their country.
Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2020