England consider plan to tour Pakistan for the first time since 2005 after receiving invitation for three-match Twenty20 series in January
- The ECB is considering a brief tour to Pakistan next year for a Twenty20 series
- Pakistan were one of four teams to visit the UK this year during the pandemic
- England have not toured Pakistan for 15 years due to security concerns
England could be in line for a momentous first visit to Pakistan in over 15 years if ambitious plans for a three-match Twenty20 series in January go ahead.
The trip would be a thank you from English cricket after the Pakistanis came to the UK this summer in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
And with Joe Root’s Test side scheduled to revisit Sri Lanka that month to fulfil a two-match series postponed in March, it could mean England have two teams on the road at the same time.
England could be in line for a momentous first visit to Pakistan in over 15 years
The ECB still need to consider several factors, including an already packed schedule, security concerns, player welfare and biosecure bubble protocols. One source last night suggested the trip ‘could be a step too far’.
But in official statement, the board confirmed they had received an invitation from their Pakistani counterparts ‘in respect of a short white-ball tour to Pakistan during the early part of 2021’.
The statement continued: ‘We welcome the fact that international cricket is returning to Pakistan and are committed to doing what we can to help this develop further. We will be liaising with the PCB, as well as other partners over the coming weeks to work through the considerations, before a final decision will be taken in due course.’
Ehsan Mani, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, told Sportsmail in July that he wanted England to visit his country, since when his chief executive Wasim Khan has been in contact with the ECB.
Pakistan were one of four international teams to visit the UK this summer during the pandemic
England’s next scheduled ‘away’ Test series against Pakistan on the ICC’s future tours programme is not until 2022-23. And since 2005-06, when they last went there, those series have all been in the UAE – Pakistan’s home away from home following a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in March 2009. They would not host international cricket again for six years.
But Mani insisted Pakistan was now safe to visit, arguing that fears among the western cricket nations were a question of ‘perception’ – not least since England have in the meantime visited Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and New Zealand, who have all suffered more recent terrorist incidents.
In the last five years, Pakistan have hosted Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh, as well as a World XI. But, with India still unable to visit because of political instability, the PCB are desperate for the likes of England, Australia and South Africa to visit, and for the much-needed TV revenue they would bring. Staging cricket in the UAE cost the board a ruinous $50,000 a day.
England’s Test and white-ball teams inhabited different biosecure bubbles this summer
England’s return to Sri Lanka remains dependent on the cooperation of the local government, who have so far been unwilling to allow visa exemptions for overseas sportsmen because of the spread of Covid-19.
But assuming both trips take place – and England haven’t staged simultaneous tours since 1929-30, when they sent a Test team to both New Zealand and the West Indies – there would be no pressure on players with security concerns to visit Pakistan. When they toured Bangladesh in late 2016 not long after a terrorist attack in Dhaka left 29 dead, white-ball captain Eoin Morgan and batsman Alex Hales opted out.
Australian coach Justin Langer spoke recently about his dislike of the idea of simultaneous tours, after it emerged that Australia’s Test side could be visiting South Africa early next year as the same time as their T20 team tours New Zealand.
But England had a dry run of sorts this summer, since their Test and white-ball teams inhabited different biosecure bubbles at Emirates Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl. Only once the Test series against Pakistan was over were players from the Test bubble allowed to take part in the T20 and one-day games against Australia.
A trip to Pakistan, though, would be a different venture altogether.