Former spinner Mushtaq Ahmed feels England’s cricketers would be delighted to visit Pakistan, and that his country deserved better after travelling the other way during the pandemic’s peak.
After English cricket administrators controversially cancelled visits for both men’s and women’s teams to cricket-crazy Pakistan next month, Ahmed, who has a foot in both camps after acting as England’s spin-bowling coach from 2009 to 2015, expressed his displeasure to AFP.
The England men’s team’s first trip to Pakistan since 2005 was only supposed to last four days, with two Twenty20 matches scheduled in Rawalpindi.
However, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) expressed “increasing worries about travel to the region” last week, only days after New Zealand cancelled their tour of Pakistan minutes before the first one-day international in Rawalpindi due to a security alert. The ECB’s decision sparked outrage in Pakistan, which further grew once the Daily Mail claimed that the England players had not been consulted.
“I think guys are very open-minded and they know the circumstances of the world,” Ahmed, 51, said of the English players. “I think from my experience, playing in England and also coaching England for six years, I think the guys are very open-minded and they know the circumstances of the world,” Ahmed said.
“I know them,” he continued, “because I played with a lot of cricketers, coached them for six years, and played (English) county cricket.”
“I believe (the) players will surely come now,” he added, noting that a lot of England players have recently been in the Pakistan Super League.
After touring England last year, Ahmed believes Pakistan deserved more.
“If a team can travel in a corona (virus) situation when people are dying (in Britain) and Pakistan can go to England and play a series, then they should have recognised and respected that,” Ahmed added.
Pakistan visited the United Kingdom during a time when Covid-19 infection rates were among the highest in the globe for a three-match Test and T20 series that saved the ECB millions in television rights deals. Other cricket tours and tournaments had gone forward in countries where terror incidents had occurred, according to Ahmed, who played 52 Tests and 144 one-day internationals and was a member of Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup-winning side.
However, following a deadly attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009, Pakistan was declared a no-go zone for international teams.
Pakistan hosted England in the UAE in 2012 and 2015, which has hosted the majority of their “home” games since the attack.
The team’s ability to play outside of Pakistan, according to Ahmed, was “very challenging.”
“I say that because heroes become heroes in front of their home crowds, and that is when you start believing that you can represent your country – you deserve that platform,” he explained.
“I remember when you played in Pakistan, I used to have a different body language and a different mindset,” he continued.
“I used to think that the kind of response you get from Pakistanis when you take a wicket or a fantastic catch was something special (is amazing).
“When you hit a six, you become a hero in the eyes of the crowd.”