KARACHI: England have arrived, finally, after 17 long years and after they abruptly called off their visit to Pakistan last year.
All is forgiven now as the 19-man side checked into a five-star hotel here on a quiet afternoon on Thursday, ahead of what will be an extensive Twenty20 International series.
Led by Jos Buttler, England will play seven games against the hosts, with the last scheduled for October 2, just 20 days before their first match at the T20 World Cup in Australia.
“We’re all excited to be here and very much looking forward to the tour and it is great to be back as an England cricket team after a long time,” Buttler told a news conference on Thursday.
England are without the likes of key players in all-rounders Liam Livingstone and Ben Stokes and pacer Chris Jordan for the Pakistan tour. The trio, however, has been named in the T20 World Cup squad.
While the Pakistan series will give the visitors the time and space to delve into and experiment numerous possibilities, it will also be about the players’ workload management — a phenomenon that is now common in the sport with the advent of T20 leagues.
“For many of us to build up towards the World Cup, we’re in a bit of a unique situation as a team with few guys who are injured and will be fit in time for the World Cup but not necessarily fit here,” said Buttler.
“There’s a few guys who are coming back to full fitness so we’ll have to manage ourselves through this tour and obviously the main aim for everyone is to turn up to Australia, fully ready to go to the World Cup.
“It’s important to us in that sense to get players to where we want them to be to familiarise some roles.”
The absence of some regular players might see a group of emerging youngsters and second-string personnel in action during the Pakistan games. Few of those who are likely to feature have decent experience of playing in the country via the Pakistan Super League, namely David Willey, Phil Salt, Will Jacks, Liam Dawson, Harry Brook, Luke Wood and Ben Duckett.
Their presence will give England an edge on the ground, but these players have also contributed in England’s decision to send a nearly full-strength team to Pakistan.
“Many of our players have played in the PSL and shared their positive experiences from being here and more than anything how much the public here love their cricket so we are delighted to be here and looking forward to the series,” Buttler said.
The England skipper believed the series will deliver high-quality cricket and it was important for the visitors, ranked top in the world, to not take Pakistan lightly.
“Pakistan are a very strong side we look forward to challenging ourselves against them and I expect to see some great cricket,” Buttler said.
“We know how strong Pakistan are and also how volatile T20 cricket is, its not necessarily a game where you need to be the favourite.
“There are a lot of match winners on both teams and that’s what you need in T20 cricket.”
The high number of games, Buttler said, would help England go through rigorous preparatory routine going into the World Cup.
“They will give us a very tough challenge and we look forward to that to be battle-hardened going into the World Cup after tough seven-match series,” the 32-year-old observed.
“Seven games will be a challenge; some of them are back to back as well.”
The England players have also decided to make a donation to the Disaster Emergency Committee’s appeal for the people affected by the recent floods in Pakistan.
The call has been supported by England players’ bodies TEPP and PCA and the donation will be matched by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
“The tough times the people of Pakistan are facing at the moment with the floods, we hope that with us being here, we can uplift that a little bit and raise spirits by seeing us play cricket,” Buttler said.
“As a team we are making a donation which will be match by the ECB as well to try and do a small part to help the people in need at the moment.”
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2022