IT is shocking that some members of the Pakistan cricket team in New Zealand have tested positive for Covid-19. Not only have doubts been raised about the tour, the incident has also caused deep national embarrassment. The entire Pakistan contingent, currently serving a 14-day quarantine period, has been issued a final warning by health authorities in New Zealand after closed-circuit television footage showed a few members of the visiting squad contravening social-distancing protocols by mingling and having food in the hotel lobby. In the aftermath of the incident, permission for the players to train in isolation at their Christchurch hotel was also revoked. The hosts have made it clear to the visiting side that they would not tolerate any risky behaviour in a country that has practically eliminated the virus. Though Pakistan’s tour party, led by skipper Babar Azam, tested negative before leaving Lahore last week, they were tested again for the virus soon after landing in New Zealand. Seven tested positive.

The whole episode reflects poorly on the players as well as the Pakistan team management for their failure to observe strict Covid-19 protocols. Experienced officials including Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Waqar Younis and others accompanying the squad as coaching staff were expected to provide guidance to the players during overseas tours but, apparently, that did not happen. Besides, a majority of the team members in the current squad had to observer similar SOPs during Pakistan’s tour of England in August this year and should not have been found wanting in their behaviour. The tour will take off with a three-match T20 series; the first game in Auckland is scheduled for Dec 18, followed by two Tests. However, the tour will be in jeopardy if there are further breaches. New Zealand Cricket said it is having discussions with the tourists to ensure they understand the quarantine requirements. PCB’s chief executive Wasim Khan, too, has spoken to the players about the grim situation. It is hoped that there won’t be more challenges.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2020

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