Mike Atherton strips England Cricket Board naked over Pakistan tour

Says sense of anger and betrayal in Pakistan is real and understandable over tour cancellation: Player welfare for Pakistan tour, not for IPL

By: News Desk      Published: 09:07 AM, 22 Sep, 2021
Pakistan tour
File photo.

In a scathing attack, former England captain Mike Atherton has lashed out at the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) over their decision to cancel the men’s and women’s tours of Pakistan.

ECB’s decision came just a few days after New Zealand abandoned their tour of Pakistan, citing a security threat.

Confirming the cancellation of the Pakistan tour, ECB released a statement and said that the decision was taken keeping in mind the "mental and physical well-being” of players.

Atherton was least impressed with ECB’s decision to back out of their commitment, especially citing fatigue as the main cause.

Reminding the board that Pakistan had visited England at the height of the pandemic, Atherton wrote in his column for thetimes.co.uk:

“If security advice is the reason for the cancellation, that would be totally understandable, but to cite Covid fatigue, effectively, is to have a short memory of what touring teams, not least Pakistan, went through in England last summer at the height of the pandemic, so helping to save the professional game from financial catastrophe.

"At the time of Pakistan’s arrival last year, Covid death rates in this country were the third highest in the world, more than 150 times the rate in Pakistan. Still Pakistan came, keeping who knows how many professional cricketers and support staff in their jobs.”

Pakistan played three Tests and three T20Is in England in August-September last year as international cricket was trying to get back on its feet following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Atherton conceded that Pakistan have every right to be angry over ECB’s betrayal, particularly after they went out of their way to visit England.

"The sense of anger and betrayal in Pakistan is real and understandable. Ramiz Raja, the new chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, is a former cricketer rather than an administrator and therefore talks a player’s language. He has been refreshingly blunt and has talked of learning a harsh lesson where England are concerned.

"Already the board there is making contingency plans around England’s planned tour next year. They do not expect England to travel, despite the commitment, and have lost any trust and faith in them. It is hard to blame them."

Before England, New Zealand abandoned their tour of Pakistan just hours before the first ODI in Rawalpindi last week, citing a threat to security.

In his column, Atherton also opined that ECB’s player welfare excuse doesn’t hold water since a number of star English cricketers are part of the IPL bio-bubble in the UAE.

"Citing player welfare is strange when the ECB have essentially washed their hands of their players' travel and cricketing commitments for three months of the year.

"If, as an employer, they are so wary of bubble and cricket fatigue, surely they should take more interest in the players' availability for the Indian Premier League? Now, of course, those who are playing in the tournament will be available for the knockout stages. It suits India and England, but not Pakistan, who have no direct stake, their players being still barred from the competition.

"This decision is worse than England’s withdrawal from South Africa last winter and India’s cancellation of the Manchester Test this month. While both those actions were hard to justify, they were at least understandable given Covid had come into close proximity to both teams," Atherton wrote

Disappointed with England, pulling out of their commitment & failing a member of their Cricket fraternity when it needed it most. Survive we will inshallah. A wake-up call for Pak team to become the best team in the world for teams to line up to play them without making excuses.