After a five month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan was set to send an extended squad to play a limited series in England. The tour was said to be in ‘bio-secure’ environment with complete safety precautions and many players agreed to join the tour despite the evident risks.
The highly-anticipated visit was supposed to herald the revival of cricket. Pakistan is among the best teams in the world and England has always been dominant on home grounds. Both countries agreed to host a cricket series due to financial losses and the lack of competitive cricket for several months.
The Pakistan cricket team suffered a setback when ten players tested positive for COVID-19. Three players – Shadab Khan, Haris Rauf, and rising star Haider Ali – tested positive a day earlier. Subsequent tests revealed that seven players and an official were also carrying the virus. None of them were carrying any symptoms but this has jeopardised the upcoming tour.
The worst part is the tests were conducted just days before the team was scheduled to depart via a chartered flight. The players now have to spend at least two weeks in quarantine or home isolation before they recover and then might be sent to England based on their medical condition.
Pakistan had announced an extended 29-member squad for the tour. The sole purpose was to find quick replacements incase a player falls victim to the contagion that has also gripped the UK which remains the fifth-worst affected country. Unfortunately, ten players have sent back to the pavilion even before stepping foot on the ground.
The tour is still on schedule and the PCB said it is determined to send the remaining players to England for the series while others could join them at a later stage. The team will depart on June 28 but its hopes would have been dampened with much of the regular team players sidelined. This could affect team morale and will be reflective in its performance.
This has also raised concerns whether the tour is worst the risk. Global sporting activities remain suspended although there have been limited football events in Europe. England is also set to have a series against the West Indies but Pakistan’s decision to send a team will raise questions about giving the go-ahead for the tour. Cricket could wait but not at the cost of the lives and health of our players.