Ramiz Raja rages at cricket's 'Western Bloc' after England back out of tour

© PCB Ramiz Raja speaks at a press conference after being unveiled as the new PCB chairman © PCB

Ramiz Raja, the PCB chairman, has hit out at cricket’s “western bloc”, as he copes with the second cancellation of a home series in a matter of days. England’s decision to withdraw their men and women’s team tours to Pakistan leaves Pakistan’s busiest home season in many a year in tatters. In a video message released by the PCB, Ramiz said that though the decision was disappointing, it was also expected, and he drew on a bullish message of self-reliance and regeneration in response.

The PCB has been bristling at the ECB’s decision, officials saying it has left them feeling betrayed. Since the pandemic began, Pakistan have twice toured England, as well as New Zealand and West Indies, only to now see England cite general Covid bubble fatigue as a reason for withdrawing from the tour.

“I am severely disappointed in England’s withdrawal but it was expected because this western bloc gets united unfortunately and tries to back each other,” Ramiz said. “So you can take any decision on the basis of security threat and perception. There was a sense of anger because first New Zealand got away without sharing information about the threat they were facing.

“Now, this [England] was expected but this is a lesson for us because we go out of our way to accommodate and pamper these sides when they visit. And when we go there, we undergo strict quarantines and we tolerate their admonishments, but there is a lesson in this. That is, that from now on we will only go as far as is in our interest.

“Our interest is that cricket will not stop in our country and if the cricket fraternity will not take care of each other then there’s no point to it. New Zealand, then England, now we have a West Indies series that can also be hit, and Australia who is already reconsidering. This – England, Australia, New Zealand – is all one block. Who can we complain to? We thought they were our own but they haven’t accepted us as theirs.”

Though it is too early to start calculating the financial impact of these two tours not happening, or potentially, other hits being taken in the season, some within the board reckon the losses could range from between USD $15-$25 million. There’s been talk of replacement sides coming in to fill the gap – Zimbabwe, a second-string Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have offered – but there are logistical difficulties. Instead Ramiz said the lesson Pakistan needed to learn from this was to strengthen from within, so that teams would not even think about pulling out.

“We have to improve and expand our cricket economy so that these countries remain interested in playing us,” he said. “That is in our interests as well so that our players are paid better and we are respected more. They come to the PSL where they don’t get spooked or fatigued but collectively they have a different mindset together toward Pakistan.”

Though he did not provide details, Ramiz said that Pakistan had begun a formal communication with New Zealand seeking compensation for losses relating to the abandonment of the tour. And as he did a couple of days ago, he again called on his team to take out the frustrations of their players and fans on the field when they finally play at the T20 World Cup.

The team’s preparations have been all but wiped out. Pakistan had scheduled 12 T20Is in the run-up to the tournament but a rain-hit series in the Caribbean and these cancellations now means they’ll go into the tournament having completed a solitary T20I of that schedule. The only cricket their players will have now is the National T20 Cup, which starts from September 23.

“We go in the World Cup now and where we had one team in our target – our neighbours [India], they now add two more teams – New Zealand and England. So pick up the strength and develop a mindset that we are not going to lose because you didn’t do right by us with us and we will avenge that in the ground.”

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