British govt supported England tour to Pakistan: envoy

Published September 21, 2021
British High Commissioner Christian Turner. — File
British High Commissioner Christian Turner. — File

The British High Commission did not advise against England cricket's tour of Pakistan next month on security grounds, the top British diplomat in Pakistan said on Tuesday.

In a video message, British High Commissioner Christian Turner said the BHC had supported the tour and "our travel advice for Pakistan has not changed."

He emphasised that the decision to call off the tour was taken by the English Cricket Board, "which is independent of the British government, based on concerns for player welfare".

Turner said he shared the "deep sadness" of cricket fans over England's decision to cancel the tour. "I have been a champion of international cricket's return to Pakistan and will redouble my efforts in advance of England's Autumn 2022 tour," he added.

"I hope that we will soon hear the roar of full cricket stadiums again," the envoy stated, adding in Urdu: "In the end, cricket will be victorious."

On Monday, English cricket officials provoked an angry response from Pakistan after withdrawing their men’s and women’s teams from next month's limited-over trip to the country, citing increasing concerns about travelling to the region.

The ECB's decision came three days after New Zealand Cricket abandoned its men’s team’s tour of Pakistan following a government alert that warned of a possible attack outside Rawalpindi Stadium.

The ECB didn’t detail any specific security issues in a statement released after a board meeting over the weekend, instead highlighting the "mental and physical wellbeing of our players and support staff".

The England teams were each scheduled to play two Twenty20 international matches on October 13 and 14 in Rawalpindi, with the women’s side due to stay on for a three-match One-day Interna­tional series from Oct 17-21.

The historic trip would have been the first ever by an England women’s team and the first by their male counterparts since 2005.

The cancellation of the tours of New Zealand and England is set to result in huge financial losses for the PCB, which helped the ECB achieve its revenue target of 300 million pounds when it sent the Pakistan team to England in 2020 at the height of the coronavirus epidemic in the UK.

On Sunday, Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Wasim Khan had revealed that the New Zealand tour was abandoned after he was informed that the New Zealand government had received an alert from the “Five Eyes” intelligence group about a "direct and imminent" threat to its team in Pakistan.

The Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The tour cancellations were met with wide criticism and anger from various quarters of Pakistan and Britain with journalists, politicians, sportsmen, commentators and more expressing their dismay over the situation.

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