Pakistan will start planning for back-up options for the home Test and ODI series against England in 2022 in case the touring party decides not to tour again, the PCB chairman Ramiz Raja confirmed. England are scheduled to tour Pakistan for three Tests and five ODIs in November-December 2022. Ever since the ECB announced their withdrawal from their tour to Pakistan this October on Monday, PCB officials have spoken of the possibility of even cancelling England's series so that they are not left dealing with a last-minute pull out once again.
Ramiz did not go quite that far in a press conference on Tuesday, but did say that he had brought that very question up with Ian Watmore, his ECB counterpart, and said that the PCB felt they had been "used and then binned" throughout the last week, which began with New Zealand abruptly abandoning their tour citing a security threat.
"I spoke to Ian [Watmore] about this and I said what is the guarantee of England coming back in 2022 and playing because a month before that tour you can easily quote tiredness, players being spooked, or sick of living in a bubble, or a threat perception not being shared with us," Ramiz said. "He clearly had no answer to that, so we'll have a back-up plan for sure."
Ramiz had already spoken on Monday evening of his anger at the decision in a PCB video - in fact, he began on Tuesday by saying he wished he was a YouTuber rather than a board chairman because it would have allowed him to vent his frustrations better. Asked on Tuesday how he felt given that Pakistan had toured England twice during the pandemic, the first trip in a more precarious environment, on which depended a large part of England's summer, Ramiz said: "It's a feeling of being used and binned. That is the feeling. A little bit of handholding, a little bit of caring was needed after New Zealand pulled out and we didn't get that from the ECB.
"In going out of our way to accommodate, to adjust to international demands, to being a responsible part of the fraternity and in return we get a response from the ECB that the players were spooked by NZ withdrawal - what does that mean? We offered them housing just next door to the stadium in Lahore in the NHPC (National High Performance Centre). It was about helping a member of the cricket fraternity when they needed you most and we didn't get that from the ECB."
Ramiz said that he felt from his discussions with Watmore that the final decision had not been in the board's hands as much as the players'. The fact that a number of them are currently playing in the IPL and would have had to leave to tour Pakistan was not lost on Ramiz either. There was no discussion to the idea of sending a reserve team either, the idea of touring at all considered a no-go.
"It seemed as if the decision was out of Watmore's hands, that there were other influencers who made the call on his behalf," Ramiz said. "But the fact is when you travel to subcontinent, you have to have that mindset that there will be bumps along the way. You're not traveling to a Western nation. You come here with that emotional spirit, that we are here, against the odds, trying to stretch our comfort zones, to play out matches to make sure we are behind Pakistan. We didn't see that from New Zealand or England.
"It's a fantastic dichotomy, you're quoting mental tensions, player fatigue, players being spooked and what, Dubai is about an hour and half from here and so before the World Cup, they're quite happy to be caged in a bubble environment and carry on with that tournament. One feels slighted. Humiliated. Withdrawal doesn't have an answer, frankly speaking."
The PCB has written to NZC and raised the question of financial compensation and is not ruling out doing likewise with the ECB. The full extent of the losses so far this season is not yet clear, though it is believed it could range - ultimately - around USD$15-25 million if other inward bound tours are affected. Though Australia's tour is several months away, Ramiz said he was expecting them to pull out as well, because of the domino effect of New Zealand pulling out, based on intelligence shared by the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance (of which the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are all a part).
Though Ramiz had initially spoken of taking these complaints to the ICC, here he acknowledged that there is little the PCB can do other than regenerate itself from within. He painted an especially bleak view of the way the world game is currently, calling all the talk of fraternity and community among cricket's members purely "cosmetic".
"We get together as a group and talk a lot but don't address elephants in the room, for example security, or pulling out of tours, or why is there a bloc of two to three countries running the show. It's cosmetic more than anything else. We've tried to create a bond, tried to make sure we play by the book, made sure we go out and play in New Zealand, in quarantine times, to England and elsewhere. We've been a very responsible member of this fraternity and in return we get nothing. So obviously we think it is cosmetic, it is self-interest."
Asked whether he had any confidence that the ICC might be able to do anything, he said: "Nothing will come out of this. We need to grow our own cricket economy. We have a lot of potential in Pakistan. We have to have the best team in the world. Not give excuses to teams not to come. We get our economics covered and our cricket covered through performances. That is the best we can do. But to seek help and advice and guidance and knock some sense at that level, it's going to be extremely tough."