ISLAMABAD: While the government hinted at taking legal action against the New Zealand and England cricket boards for cancelling their scheduled matches in Pakistan, the British government distanced itself from the move of England and Wales Cricket Board, terming it the board’s “independent” decision.

“The decision to abandon the tour is of ECB, which is independent of the British government, based on concerns for player welfare.

“The British government and the British High Commission in Islamabad supported the tour and did not advise the ECB on security grounds,” British High Commissioner Dr Christian Turner said while speaking to Dawn on Tuesday.

“Our advisory to travel to Pakistan has not changed,” he confirmed.

Pakistan mulls legal action against cricket boards of New Zealand, England, says Fawad

The men’s team of England was supposed to tour Pakistan after a gap of 16 years, whereas the women’s team was coming here for the first time to play two T20 matches.

Sharing reasons for cancellation of the tours next month, the ECB cited concerns over the players’ mental and physical well-being.

England’s withdrawal comes immediately after the New Zealand cricket team abruptly pulled out of a series of matches in Pakistan on Friday, citing a security threat. New Zealand’s withdrawal disappointed Pakistan as it was confident of hosting regular international cricket matches.

“I share the deep sadness about the cancellation of England’s tour in October. I had worked hard with the chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Ramiz Raja, and Chief Executive Officer PCB Wasim Khan, and appreciate their support and was personally looking forward to the matches,” said the British High Commissioner.

‘Tour in next autumn’

Responding to criticism and wider perception that the back-to-back cancellation of tours by New Zealand and England was part of some conspiracy against Pakistan, Dr Turner said: “I understand the frustration. I do not endorse it. I would like to make it clear that the British government has no role in the cancellation of the tour.”

He said there was no controlling of all the events happening. “It is easy to join all the events and make an interesting story out of it. My focus now will be on the ECB’s long-standing commitment to tour Pakistan in the autumn of 2022, as we move forward,” Dr Turner said.

In his response to possible legal action against the cricket boards of the two countries, the British High Commissioner said it was a matter between the government of Pakistan and the ECB.

On Tuesday morning, federal Minister for Information, Fawad Chaudhry said cancellation of New Zealand and England tours cost state-run PTV dearly besides disappointing millions of people. He said consultations would be held with legal experts for taking lawful action against both the cricket boards.

The federal minister was of the opinion that the cancellation of tours seemed to be orchestrated by an international lobby. “A special international lobby is working against Pakistan,” he said. However, he added, “Those who want to bend us will never succeed.”

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2021

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