Paceman Mohammad Abbas perplexed at ‘weird’ England decision to cancel Pakistan tours

Published September 25, 2021
A file photo of Pakistani paceman Mohammad Abbas. — Dawn/File
A file photo of Pakistani paceman Mohammad Abbas. — Dawn/File

LIVERPOOL: A perplexed Mohammad Abbas said on Thursday that Pakistan felt ‘hurt’ by the ‘strange’ decision of English cricket chiefs to cancel tours for their men’s and women’s teams next month.

Paceman Abbas added it was a poor reward for Pakistan’s decision to tour England last year at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in Britain.

“Obviously when you give 100 percent, you need to get back the same things,” he said. “It hurts us.”

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) cited ‘increasing concerns about travelling to the region’ on Monday just three days after New Zealand also pulled out of a tour to Pakistan over security concerns.

However, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Christian Turner, confirmed the decision was taken by the ECB on the grounds of player welfare.

Pakistan travelled to England last year at a time when Covid-19 infection rates in Britain were among the highest in the world for a three-match Test and T20 series that saved the ECB millions in television rights deals.

“We are sacrificing lots of things, so it’s strange for us,” Abbas, playing for English side Hampshire, told reporters after the south coast club were denied the County Championship title by a dramatic one-wicket loss to Lancashire at Liverpool. “We are disappointed.”

The first trip by the England men’s side to Pakistan since 2005 was only meant to last four days with two Twenty20 Internationals in Rawalpindi on Oct 13 and 14.

Two women’s T20 Internationals were scheduled on the same days as double-headers with three women’s One-day Internationals to follow in the same city.

Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja said he felt ‘used and then binned’ by the ECB, with Abbas saying: “We [Pakistanis] love cricket, we want to play cricket, we were here at a very strange time when the Covid was everywhere.

“I am proud of our security agencies so it hurts us that they [England] are not going to Pakistan.”

Abbas, a veteran of 25 Tests, said the fact several England cricketers, including Hampshire captain James Vince, have played in the Pakistan Super League in recent seasons made the decision to cancel the England tours all the more perplexing.

“We played together in PSL for Multan Sultans so they [English cricketers] were happy, they are happy to go to Pakistan. I spoke to him, he said ‘ECB spoke to you for advice, I said ‘no they didn’t get any advice from us’. They took their own decision.”

The 31-year-old Abbas added: “I am a professional player, if anyone needs me I will be available for them. If countries are not respecting us, we will see what’s best for our country.”

Had Hampshire won on Thursday they would have secured their first County Championship title in 48 years.

Lancashire were cruising to a target of 196 at 177-5 but lost four wickets for 17 runs.

England leg-spinner Mason Crane, who took 5-51 in all and also ran out Tom Bailey to leave Lancashire on 194-9.

But Lancashire captain Dane Vilas, a former South Africa international, hit the winning runs to leave his side top of the table, although they will be pipped to the title if Warwickshire beat Somerset in a match that finishes later on Friday.

Abbas, who took 5-48 in Lancashire’s first innings but went wicketless in the second, was philosophical about the agonising outcome.

“It’s the beauty of cricket,” said Abbas, who took 41 wickets in 10 Championship matches for Hampshire this season at a miserly average of 15.87. “We worked hard but it’s part of the game.”

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2021

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