'No more a gentleman's game': Pakistanis heartbroken, angry as England cancel tour after NZ

Call for review of cricketing ties with England and New Zealand, ask PCB to "stop being so generous" to other boards.
Published September 20, 2021

Pakistanis were still trying to come to terms with their heartbreak over New Zealand's last-minute cancellation of its tour to the country when they were dealt a second blow on Monday.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced that it was "reluctantly" withdrawing both its men's and women's teams from their tour of Pakistan scheduled for next month.

While saying it understood the withdrawal would be a "significant disappointment" to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the ECB added that going ahead with the tour "will add further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted Covid environments".

As expected, Pakistanis were heartbroken, with some pointing out that the country was safe to play in while others suspected bigger political reasons were behind the cancellation.

Journalist Mubashir Zaidi summarised the situation in one line: "Cricket is no more a gentleman's game."

'Failed their cricket fraternity'

PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja said he was "disappointed" with England for "pulling out of their commitment & failing a member of their cricket fraternity when it needed it most".

"Survive we will Inshallah," he wrote, terming the development "a wake-up call for Pakistan team to become the best team in the world for teams to line up to play them without making excuses".

Calls for review

Many people also called for Pakistan to review its cricketing ties with both New Zealand and England, including journalist Mazhar Abbas.

"Government must question England to share the details of security threat otherwise we should review our future cricketing ties with both Eng and New Zealand," he tweeted.

'Extremely disappointed'

Former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood expressed "extreme disappointment" on behalf of the country's cricket fans. He also sympathised with the PCB which he said had "left nothing unturned".

However, Mahmood concluded on a positive note, saying Pakistanis would not need to wait for too long for international cricket to return to Pakistan as "behind the scenes ppl r working v hard."

'Distasteful let down'

Terming the ECB's decision "distasteful", sports journalist Faizan Lakhani recalled that Pakistan had toured England twice during the pandemic. It had also toured New Zealand in the "most difficult and challenging conditions, all to support global cricket", he added.

However, both countries had "let down" Pakistan, he said. "Pakistan's cricket fraternity has every right to feel betrayed."

"England's withdrawal leaves a real bad taste. I don't know what more needs to happen to recognise, and do something about the continuing imbalance in the international game," commented former cricketer Bazid Khan.

Inequities at play

Cricket writer Osman Samiuddin also had similar views. In an apparent reference to the ECB's mention of playing in "restricted Covid environments", he recalled the circumstances of Pakistan's two tours to England, during one of which there was even an outbreak in the host team.

"Citing Covid environment fatigue (and not specific [security] threat) is going to go down like a lead balloon in Pak.

"Of course, impossible (and wrong) to force wary players to tour. But really does drive home the inequities at play in international cricket," he added.

Pakistan the 'bigger nation'

Responding to PCB chairman Ramiz Raja's tweet, Salman Iqbal, who owns the PSL franchise Karachi Kings, said Pakistan was a "bigger nation than these small petty politics".

"Cricket has come back to Pakistan and inshallah it will resume again," Iqbal added.

'Extremely frustrating'

Sports presenter Zainab Abbas noted how the "inevitable" cancellation was "extremely frustrating" for fans of the game but said the national side should "utilise the opportunity to focus on playing the National T20 competitively & get some confidence before the World Cup" that will start next month.

'Stop being so generous'

Cricket writer Saj Sadiq too recalled that Pakistan had toured England twice during Covid-19 and helped the ECB financially because of it.

"In return when PCB needed their support, ECB has turned their back on PCB," he pointed out.

"It's time the Pakistan Cricket Board stopped being so generous particularly to Boards who don't return the favour and help PCB in its time of need," he added.

'Pakistan has been maligned'

It seemed like Pakistanis weren't the only ones disappointed by the ECB's decision.

Sharing a video of his short film on Pakistan, British journalist Peter Oborne said Pakistanis are the "most genuine people you will ever meet", adding: "We felt completely safe."

"Pakistan has been maligned. Today's England decision is so upsetting," Oborne said.

Ex-England skipper Michael Vaughan said England's withdrawal was "completely understandable in light of the security issues" but questioned why the matches could not be played in a neutral venue instead.

"Let's hope things can change & teams can tour Pakistan shortly," he commented.

Header photo: England's captain Eoin Morgan, right, and teammates await third umpire's decision for the wicket of Sri Lanka's Dushmantha Chameera during the third ODI between England and Sri Lanka, at Bristol County Ground in Bristol, England. — AP/File