After NZ and England snubs, Raja says Pakistan will now look after own interest

ISLAMABAD: Ramiz Raja, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, said the “western bloc” seems united after England became the second country to refuse to play in Pakistan.

“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,” Raja said in a video message.

The England and Wales Cricket Board withdrew its men’s and women’s teams from a tour of Pakistan for a limited-overs series next month, citing increased concerns about travelling to the region.

It also cited player fatigue ahead of the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

New Zealand abandoned its tour to Pakistan last week moments before the toss for the first ODI at Rawalpindi. It did not give details of any security threats it had received.

“There was a sense of anger because first New Zealand got away without sharing information about the threat they were facing,” said Raja, who took over as the PCB chairman on September 13.

“This (England) decision 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.”

Pakistan has twice toured England since the pandemic and travelled to New Zealand and the West Indies. The PCB had lined up a domestic season with teams like New Zealand, England, West Indies and Australia.

Pakistan was supposed to play at least 12 T20s ahead of the World Cup, but with the withdrawal of both England and New Zealand it will go into the event with just one completed T20. This was against the West Indies.

Raja said this put into question matches against the West Indies and Australia.

“We have a West Indies series that can also be hit, and Australia who is already reconsidering. This England, Australia and New Zealand are all one block. Who can we complain to?”

Raja said Zimbabwe was willing to play in Pakistan to fill the gap left by both New Zealand and England. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had offered to send their second-string teams.

Pakistan could have hosted Zimbabwe and a second-string Bangladesh team to fill the void but the PCB would not resort to such “desperation”, he said. Also, all these suggested tours could not materialise due to “logistical difficulties,” Raja added.

According to media reports, the PCB is facing a loss that could be anything between $15-25 million after the twin pullouts but Raja said he was determined to claim compensation from New Zealand Cricket.

Pakistan has scheduled its own domestic National T20 Cup in which all the World Cup players are going to participate. Raja said Pakistan has set its target to beat at least three teams.

“We had one team in our target, our neighbours (India), now add two more teams, New Zealand and England,” Raja said.

Pakistan would have been treated better had PCB had more financial clout, the 59-year-old said.

“We have to improve and expand our cricket economy so that these countries remain interested in playing us,” he said.

“They come to the Pakistan Super League where they don’t get spooked or fatigued but collectively they have a different mindset together toward Pakistan.”

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