Pakistan tour of New Zealand under threat as training ban on visitors not lifted
The next 48 to 72 hours are crucial for the Pakistan cricket tour of New Zealand as the team management has sought advice from the cricket board after the host country did not grant permission for training to the visitors following fourth coronavirus testing which confirmed 44 members of Pakistani squad are negative, reported 24NewsHD TV channel on Friday, quoting sources.
Pakistan had landed in New Zealand about two weeks ago and since then underwent a series of coronavirus tests, resulting in confirmation of eight members as positive. Pakistan has to play T20I and Test starting from December 18, but so far they had not had a single session of training as they were confined to their hotel rooms.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials have contacted the team management in New Zealand seeking their opinion regarding continuing the tour. The officials, however, expressed their disappointment on the lack of permission for the team’s training.
According to the sources, PCB Chief Executive Wasim Khan has also talked to the players in New Zealand.
PCB officials were of the view that under the News Zealand coronavirus protocols it was not possible to send replacement players immediately. They demanded of the New Zealand authorities to allow training session to the Pakistani cricketers.
The team were confined to their rooms when the first cases emerged last week but had hoped to resume training before finishing their stint in isolation on Tuesday.
However, health chiefs said the risk of further infections was too great. Ten people among the 53-member tour party have tested positive for Covid-19 while completing two weeks of isolation in Christchurch.
"I have very carefully considered this situation," director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said in a statement. "At this time, I continue to have ongoing concerns about the risk of cross-infection within the squad."
The decision means that Pakistan's cricketers will have only 10 days to prepare for their first tour match, a Twenty20 international in Auckland on December 18, and probably less when travel is factored in.
Bloomfield said the decision was prompted by the number of active cases detected among the squad. "Public health considerations will continue to be foremost in our response to Covid-19, whether this involves individuals or teams," he said.
"We appreciate the challenges that this decision will have for the touring team."
Bloomfield issued the team with a "final warning" last week for flouting social distancing protocols at their hotel and no further breaches have been reported since.
The tourists arrived in New Zealand on November 24 and are scheduled to play three T20s and two Tests.
New Zealand has largely eradicated community transmission of coronavirus, recording just 1,713 cases and 25 deaths in a population of five million.
With inputs from AFP.