New Zealand cricket team’s abrupt pull-out from the Pakistan tour, citing security concerns, has left a bitter taste in the mouth, not just for the millions of fans who eagerly awaited the start of the limited over matches, but for the connoisseurs too who feel the game’s been let down by the touring side’s hasty move.
Needless to say, the ‘unilateral abandonment’ of the tour by the Kiwis has come as a massive blow to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) which suddenly finds itself confronted with a myriad of problems, none more serious than salvaging the upcoming T20 tour by England next month and the subsequent tours by the West Indies and Australia.
The PCB fully realises that its tremendous image building efforts over the years, that went a long way in convincing the international teams to resume cricket tours to this country after the ghastly terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, could come down to zero after the New Zealand pull out.
The Board’s tough talking new Chairman, Ramiz Raja, has promised to take up the tour cancellation issue at the International Cricket Council (ICC), lambasting New Zealand for not sharing any evidence of security threat that compelled them to withdraw just an hour before the start of the opening ODI at Rawalpindi.
However, the knowledgeable critics know only too well how a toothless body like the ICC will yet again sweep the contentious issue under the carpet and could unsurprisingly end up blaming Pakistan “for not doing enough’’ to ensure an incident free tour.
The ICC’s views notwithstanding, Pakistan had done well to make fool proof arrangements for this tour as it was of paramount importance for them. Skipper Babar Azam and his men assembled in full strength at Rawalpindi and appeared geared up for the contests.
New Zealand, on the other hand, while touring Pakistan after 18 long years, were without their best players who are in Dubai to fulfil their Indian Premier League commitments.
The PCB would have been well within its rights to demand a full-strength squad for the tour from the New Zealand Cricket Board as it had undertaken a full tour of New Zealand in the midst of Covid-19 crisis last year to play all the matches despite Pakistan team getting severely hit by the virus in the early stages of the tour.
After careful analysis of all the aspects of this tour pull-out saga, one finds it hard to give benefit of the doubt to New Zealand. In fact, the eerie silence on the part of Black Caps and their government confirms there is more doubt in what transpired on Friday, the benefit of which could be reaped by a hidden hand which ought be India and no other.
Conspiracy theories apart, India has made no bones about the fact that it would love to see Pakistan getting isolated on all fronts, including sports, and has stooped low to ensure that.
One need not look any further than BCCI’s nefarious plans to damage the Kashmir Premier League last month. The Indian cricket board, after its failure to dismantle the Pakistan Super League, dished out open threats to all competing foreign players in KPL with dire consequences.
The overwhelming support from the players and cricket officials for Pakistan as the cricketing host during the past twenty-four hours, however, should be enough to keep England undeterred by the Black Caps’ pull out.
The supportive and encouraging tweets from a half a dozen Sri Lankan players, West Indies’ Darren Sammy, ex-South African coach Mickey Arthur, renowned commentator Mike Haysman and scores of others from around the world is testament to the fact that the playing conditions are perfect, and the situation is well under Pakistan’s control while the security threat, if any, was merely a hoax.
A definite law or regulation is the order of the day to keep in check the irksome double standards of countries like New Zealand, Australia and England who are prone to cancel a tour at the drop of a hat, but are unsympathetic towards other cricketing nations like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe or the West Indies when they are faced with similar circumstances on away tours.
A fair judgment on New Zealand’s unfathomable pull-out from the Pakistan tour in all likelihood is a remote possibility. Ramiz Raja will be well advised, therefore, to push for a decent compensation rather than imposition of a penalty which just may not be an option with the ICC.
The writer is News Editor, Bol News.