RAMIZ Raja was distraught, frustrated and angry. And the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman made no attempt to hide his emotions in a video message after England called off their October tour to Pakistan on Monday night, three days after New Zealand had pulled out of their own commitment hours before the start of the ODI series in Rawalpindi. Unfortunately, even if he did not intend to politicise the matter, he very nearly ended up doing so when he said that the Western bloc had banded together to isolate Pakistan. Mr Raja repeated the same views at a virtual news conference on Tuesday.

Such remarks deviate from the professional standards that an individual in Mr Raja’s official capacity must uphold. It is regrettable that ministers and prime ministerial advisers are also claiming the teams’ refusal to play in Pakistan to be part of a conspiracy. Surely disappointment and rage can be channelled in a constructive way to avoid further damage.

In what has been a rocky start to his chairmanship, the PCB chief now faces a challenge that it seemed the country had overcome. International cricket had largely been restored to Pakistan, thanks to the work of his predecessors. Mr Raja headed into the job tasked with making decisions to raise the team’s performance. However, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has propelled fears of regional insecurity.

Read: Pakistan battling isolation as cricket hosts

In their announcement, England did not mention any security threat to its team but said there were increasing concerns about travelling to the region and that it would mean added mental pressure on their players who already had to cope with the Covid-19 situation. New Zealand’s abrupt pullout without clarifying the reasons had already left Pakistan cricket in the lurch and England aggravated the injury.

The PCB and Mr Raja are faced again with the arduous task of convincing the top world teams that Pakistan is safe for cricket. Mr Raja said that there were lessons to be learnt, and that Pakistan would put its interests first in the future while adding that the PCB would go all out in seeking compensation for the cancelled tours. He also spoke about building a cricket economy and making the national team the best in the world. That is the right approach and should be the way forward for Pakistan cricket which has had many problems to contend with. A chance for Pakistan to make its worth known will be at the Twenty20 World Cup next month.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2021

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