Fri, 22 Oct 2021

Ramiz Raja to the fans: 'Stand behind Pakistan cricket'

ESPNCricInfo
19 Sep 2021, 04:43 GMT+10

A day after New Zealand abruptly cancelled their tour of Pakistan due to security reasons, newly-elected PCB chairman Ramiz Raja sought to rally his troops by urging everyone to focus on a way forward.

A second-string New Zealand team was in Pakistan, all set to play in a series of three ODIs and five T20Is, but minutes before the start of the first game the whole thing unravelled, leaving the PCB in utter disbelief. In the heat of the moment, Raja even tweeted that New Zealand will hear from them at the ICC.

ESPNcricinfo understands that the PCB pondered their options, ranging from a protest to opening up a legal dispute with the ICC, but didn't have solid ground to build a legal case against New Zealand. The series was called off on the advice of the New Zealand government and not the board, which could put any potential case beyond ICC's powers.

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"Our pain is shared," Raja told the followers of Pakistan cricket through a video. "Whatever happened isn't good for Pakistan cricket. But one point that needs to be emphasised is that we have gone through such experiences in the past and we always move forward.

"So I urge our fans to stand behind the Pakistan team and be its strength at the [T20] World Cup. To my team, I would like to say take out your frustrations on the field because that is the only remedy. When you become the world's best team then everyone is queuing up in line to play series in your country. So I want everyone to take this as a lesson and move on and not be disappointed."

As much as there is fear that other countries may now be more reluctant to tour Pakistan, the PCB is also reeling from the loss of revenue and, more importantly, game time. The T20 World Cup will kick off in less than a month's time and these matches were seen as the ideal preparation in the lead-up to the marquee tournament.

Pakistan were banking on 12 T20Is against West Indies, New Zealand and England to tune them up for the World Cup. But circumstances - rain in the Caribbean, and security threats in Pakistan - have combined to scupper nearly all of them. The ECB is yet to decide if it will be sending its men's team to play a series of two T20Is scheduled to take place next month.

Bringing international cricket back to Pakistan has been a serious challenge ever since the 2009 Lahore attacks. However, the PCB had been making great strides in that direction, especially in recent times. Since 2017, various teams including West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Bangladesh had toured the country without incident. New Zealand's pulling out though has left them on the defensive.

"We will come out of this situation where our [ability to host] international cricket is under pressure again but even if we don't we still have that strong gut," Raja said. "We have the confidence and strength to work on our domestic cricket and still produce a world-class team.

"I understand there is a lot of pressure on the Pakistan team. But that's okay. We will face it. And we will bring you good news. Good performances. We are rallying the fans to get behind us. Now is the time to work hard and emerge as the world's best team so that we can get out of this challenge easily. I am with you and hope you are also with me, and as a unit we will take Pakistan cricket forward."

Ramiz RajaPakistanNew Zealand in Pakistan

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent

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