‘We Feel Cheated’ – Ramiz Raja Criticises ECB After Withdrawal

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - 'We feel cheated' - Ramiz Raja criticises ECB after withdrawal. The England men's team were scheduled to play two T20Is in Pakistan.

‘We Feel Cheated’ – Ramiz Raja Criticises ECB After WithdrawalThe England men's team were scheduled to play two T20Is in Pakistan.

PCB chairman Ramiz Raja has accused the ECB of “making excuses” after their decision to withdraw both the England men's and women's teams from their tours to Pakistan next month.

The ECB's decision came after New Zealand had abandoned their own white-ball series in Pakistan on Friday (September 17), the day of the opening ODI in Rawalpindi, following a security threat raised by Five Eyes, the joint intelligence network of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and the US. NZC's decision to remove their squad from Pakistan prompted the ECB to review their own plans over the weekend.

The ECB Board finally made a decision on Monday, 24 hours later than expected, to cancel the tours. There were due to be two T20I double headers featuring both the men's and women's team in Rawalpindi on October 14 and 15 followed by three additional women's ODIs. It would have been the first time the men's team had toured Pakistan since 2005 and the first time ever that the women's side had played in the country.

An ECB statement said: “The mental and physical well-being of our players and support staff remains our highest priority and this is even more critical given the times we are currently living in. We know there are increasing concerns about travelling to the region and believe that going ahead will add further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted Covid environments.

“There is the added complexity for our men's T20 squad. We believe that touring under these conditions will not be ideal preparation for the ICC men's T20 WC, where performing well remains a top priority for 2021.”

The decision was met by a strong response from Raja, newly installed as the PCB chairman, who tweeted: “Disappointed with England, pulling out of their commitment and failing a member of their Cricket fraternity when England. Survive we will inshallah. A wake-up call for Pak team to become the best team in the world for teams to line up to play them without making excuses.”

It remains unclear how much of the ECB's decision was down to security worries. Although their statement referenced “increasing concerns about travelling to the region”, it stopped short of saying the decision to cancel the tours was made because of specific security issues. Indeed, the word ‘security' was not referenced at all. The main reason given instead was concern for the well-being of the England players.

The ECB's original safety assessment of Pakistan, carried out three weeks ago by ESI Risk, the same consultants used by NZC, gave the tour the go ahead. When asked by Cricbuzz on Friday (September 20) whether the ECB's own security assessment for Pakistan had changed since New Zealand's withdrawal, the governing body declined to offer any additional information.

However, reports in The Times and The Telegraph said that the ECB Board were given the same security briefing over the weekend that NZC received last week. It is almost certain therefore that the security situation played a role in the ECB's decision to cancel the tours even if their statement did not make that clear.

Incidentally, the PCB say that the intelligence which prompted New Zealand to abandon their tour has not been shared with them or the Pakistani government. They are not, however, part of the Five Eyes network, whereas New Zealand and the UK both are.

Similar well-being concerns were also given as the reason for the postponement of England men's white-ball series in Bangladesh, which was also due to be played next month. Given the amount of time England's players have spent in restrictive environments this year, it is understandable that the ECB wants to ensure they are not pushed to breaking point.

However, nine of England's preliminary men's World Cup party – the same squad that was likely to travel to Pakistan – are currently playing in the IPL, living in restrictive environments at a time when they could have been resting at home.

The IPL franchises are set to benefit from the ECB's decision. As initially reported by Cricbuzz, any England players who reached the IPL knock-out stages were set to miss those matches to be in Pakistan. The decision to now cancel the men's series means English players will be available for their IPL franchises for the whole tournament.

While criticising the ECB's decision, Raja was keen to stress the vital role Pakistan have played in the last two English summers. They played three Tests and three T20Is in England last season under strict bio-secure conditions during the initial stages of the pandemic, helping the ECB avoid catastrophic financial losses. They also continued with their limited overs tour to England this summer despite the whole of the home squad having to isolate after a COVID outbreak.

“Whatever sacrifices we made last season to help England during the Covid situation, that appears to have gone wasted so we have learned a harsh lesson,” Raja later told Sky Sports. “This is very disappointing. Now was the time for England to come to our help because that is what our small cricket fraternity does. It's unfortunate and disappointing because this may have a domino effect and other teams may follow suit.”

Despite the setbacks of the last few days, Raja was defiant about the ability of Pakistani cricket to bounce back. “We are a resilient cricket nation,” he said. “We will survive and find a way which we always do. This could be a mini road block for us but we feel cheated. We'll raise our voice at the ICC. Hopefully this is just a blip and we will recover and we will fight back.”

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