The Pakistan cricket squad left on Sunday for their England tour without 10 players who had tested positive for coronavirus.
Test skipper Azhar Ali said the team was looking forward to playing in what will be some of the first Test matches since the Covid-19 pandemic sparked a global lockdown.
“All the players are excited after a tough period,” said Azhar on the eve of departure.
“Though a tour to England has always been challenging, our performances there on the last two tours [in 2016 and 2018] are encouraging and we will try to repeat those.”
Pakistan drew a four-Test series 2-2 in 2016 and a two-match series 1-1 two years later.
A chartered plane carried 20 squad members including two reserves, who were seen wearing face masks and observing social distancing at Lahore airport in pictures released by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
The squad will face a two-week isolation period on arrival before continuing their preparations ahead of the first Test with two four-day warm-up matches.
The travelling party did not include 10 players who tested positive for the virus last week. Six later tested negative for the virus, and will be allowed to rejoin the squad once they have had two consecutive negative results.
Pakistan are due to play three Tests against England in August followed by three Twenty20 internationals.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Friday reversed its decision to terminate 55 employees as a downsizing measure, days after it handed them a one-month notice period ending on June 30.
PCB Chief Executive Wasim Khan in a statement today said "making changes is about timing and, on reflection, the process and communication needed to be better".
"As a responsible organisation, we have reviewed our decision and acted quickly to withdraw the notices," he added.
A PCB spokesman had earlier said that the decision of downsizing had not been taken due to financial constraints caused by the Covid-19 outbreak but it had been done as per the requirement of corporate norms since their was surplus staff in the organisation.
Khan, in his statement today, said "the vast overstaffing that the current Board has inherited remains a long-term sustainability issue for the PCB", adding that the cricket body would continue to "restructure and rationalise its staff numbers".
"The PCB will make necessary decisions in due course," he added.
The PCB has possibly the largest set up among the cricket boards of the world as far as its staff strength is concerned. Almost every chairman had made appointments to oblige friends and relatives and the staff strength is said to be approximately 800.
The incumbent PCB body has already cut down the staff strength to some extent by abolishing the regional body system, where nearly 260 employees including groundsmen, curators besides office clerks were working and getting some portion of their monthly salaries from the PCB besides from their respective regions.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Friday decided to cut short the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2020 and hold the final match of the tournament on March 18 instead of March 23.
According to a press release by the cricketing body, the playoff match has been replaced by the semi-finals, which will be held in Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium on March 17; one at 2pm and the second at 7pm. The final will also take place at the Gaddafi Stadium at 7pm on March 18.
The playoff matches scheduled for today, tomorrow and March 15 will be held according to schedule.
The announcement came hours after the board announced that the tournament will continue as planned.
PCB had also said that all players participating in PSL 2020 have been given the option to pull out of the tournament amid growing fears of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier in the day, Sindh confirmed its first "secondary contact case", taking Pakistan's coronavirus tally to 21.
“Today, the PCB and the team owners, as part of their duty of care, have decided to give all the players the option to decide if they wish to return home," PCB Chief Executive Wasim Khan was quoted as saying.
According to an official statement by the cricket board, the following players have confirmed they will not take part in any future matches of the tournament.
Peshawar Zalmi coach James Foster and Islamabad United trainer Corey Rutgers are also going back home.
“This remains an evolving and unprecedented situation with a number of moving parts that require constant and regular monitoring. Ensuring that the players feel comfortable remains paramount to the PCB," Khan said.
"As of now, it is important to emphasise and clarify that the main concern of many [...] who have chosen to return home, revolves around avoiding a potential situation where they might become stranded either due to flight cancellations or border closures in their own countries."
He added that the PCB will facilitate their safe return and will ensure the same for all of the players and support staff personnel who decide to withdraw from the league.
"We will continue to assess and review the situation and will not hesitate to make what we believe are the right decisions for everyone involved," he said.
In another statement issued today, the PCB has decided that that final few matches of PSL scheduled to take place in Lahore will be played behind closed doors, meaning that all remaining matches will be played in the absence of spectators.
Yesterday, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had announced that all PSL matches at Karachi's National Stadium would be played without spectators.
“A high risk is involved in allowing spectators to gather in the stadium to witness the matches and we can’t put everyone at risk, therefore matches will be held without spectators,” he had said.
The PCB had endorsed the Sindh government's decision and the board's chief executive had also said that they were in consultation with the Punjab government over holding the remaining matches without spectators.
In today's statement, the cricket board said: "The decision will not impact accredited commercial partners, media and other service providers, who will be allowed to enter Gaddafi Stadium.
"In addition, immediate families of competing players, player support personnel and franchise owners will be allowed to attend the matches."
The statement added that the step has been taken as a precautionary measure to better protect the health and safety of all those involved, adding that all those who had purchased tickets will be given a full refund.
KUWAIT CITY, Jan 18: Kuwait emerged winners of the His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah 9th International Shooting Grand Prix, which concluded on Friday, January 17 at the Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Olympic Shooting Complex.
According to a press release, Kuwait won a total of seven medals – two gold, two silver and three bronze. Serbia came second with four medals – two gold, one silver and one bronze, followed by Czech Republic with two gold medals, Italy with five medals – one gold, three silver and one bronze, Kazakhstan with six medals – one gold, two silver and three bronze, and the United Arab Emirates and Greece with one gold medal each.
Bulgaria and Pakistan won one silver medal each, and Armenia and Lithuania won a bronze medal each. Kuwait’s Khalifa Al-Shalash won gold medal in the skeet category after hitting 177 targets in eight rounds within two days. Ghazi Al-Daihani won the silver after hitting 171 targets.
Mu’az Al-Rashed won the bronze medal after hitting 169 targets. Head of Kuwait and Arab shooting federations, and Head of the organizing committee Du’aij Al- Otaibi handed over the medals to the winners and congratulated them.
Meanwhile, Head of the Asian Shooting Federation Sheikh Salman Al-Hamoud praised the efforts exerted by the organizing committee that met the good reputation of Kuwait in the field of shooting sport. He also praised the advanced level of the participating teams.
KUWAIT CITY, Jan 7, (KUNA): The Kuwait Olympic Committee has made changes to its stature and adopted its competitor ethics list as requested by the International Olympics Committee, an official said on Monday. They include amendments to the voting mechanism for sports sub committees, Kuwait Olympic Committee Secretary Husain Al-Musallam told reporters. Players of different sports will be asked to vote in their respective representative. The new measures were approved in a meeting attended by sports associations and sports club representatives in the country.
CAPTAINCY is a huge responsibility whoever is entrusted with the mantle. It is generally considered a job of honour and pride because not every individual gets the tag. While some are born leaders, others go through the hard grind to justify their acclaimed status. The sacking of Sarfraz Ahmed from two formats of Pakistan captaincy wasn’t unexpected given the run of lows in the wicket-keeper’s overall form with the bat.
Removing the 32-year-old from the leadership of the Test team was on the anvil but his sudden ouster as the T20 captain has certainly taken some by surprise, despite Pakistan’s embarrassing 3-0 whitewash to seventh-ranked Sri Lanka in the recent home series, because he has previously led the country to an unprecedented 11 series wins on the trot and the ICC No.1 ranking in the format.
In the new set-up of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Sarfraz knew at the back of his mind that there would be no easy time forthcoming and the Sri Lanka T20 debacle was the last straw. The PCB regime wanted their incumbent team leader to abdicate the crown amicably and go out with his dignity intact. Upon refusal to comply the request — which was a justifiable move one must admit, given the stature attached to the post — Sarfraz further complicated his already vulnerable position. Even though, he had refused to lead Sindh in the ongoing National T20 Cup in Faisalabad.
The formula is simple whatever we all do in life as professionals: either one has to perform in order to remain in the job or get the sacking, as Sarfraz has done now after Wasim Khan, the PCB chief executive, showed up in Faisalabad the other day specifically to indulge in a one-to-one chat. This was an example of complete ignorance on Sarfraz’s part because he wasn’t prepared to understand the complexities of his weakened stance in the wake of the T20 losses against Sri Lanka.
Fearing the possible ramifications of what Pakistan will find Down Under against Australia, who are always very hard competitors in their own backyard, in a couple of weeks from now, the PCB has, in fact, done Sarfraz a big favour because more of the same results would have been killer-blow for his career.
Sarfraz would also be the first to realise — something he must be made to understand by everyone who is very close to the man — for his own sake a break at this phase of his international career would definitely do him a world of good. Except for a very brief period in the summer of 2015, Sarfraz had been constantly on the move in Pakistan colours since Adnan Akmal suffered a fractured thumb during the second Test of the 2013-14 series in the United Arab Emirates.
The deterioration in his form has been the real worry for a national team which has its lows, and occasional highs, because Sarfraz has got embroiled in situations where he appeared to be completely hapless as captain. In the first post-Misbah/Younis Test series, Pakistan inexplicably lost 2-0 to Sri Lanka on the familiar UAE pitches where visiting sides had usually bit the dust. This dose was repeated in the emirates by New Zealand last year when they nailed Sarfraz’s men 2-1.
His overall statistics across all formats are still much more respectable than a number of players who have had donned the Pakistan cap. But since becoming captain, Sarfraz never reached three figures — getting dismissed in the nervous 90s on several occasions — while his last significant score was 97 against England during the ODI series, just prior to the World Cup.
While Sarfraz averages a healthy 36.39 in 49 Tests for someone who bats regularly at No.7, his figures as captain of the longest format are quite disappointing — 25.81 in 13 Tests from which he accumulated only 568 runs — while he also shared a dubious landmark with Faf de Plessis, another embattled Test leader who is struggling to keep South Africa’s reputation intact, when the two provided the first — and only thus far — instance of both captains bagging pairs in the same Test when Pakistan toured the rainbow nation last season.
However, Sarfraz has done reasonably well on the limited-overs front. The skipper of Pakistan’s 2017 ICC Champions Trophy-winning squad averages a decent 33.90 from 116 One-day Internationals given his unstable positioning in the batting order, while his stats as captain are almost as good (32.16) in 50 one-dayers.
Another point of concern in Sarfraz’s case, according to those who were critical of his promotion to the Pakistan captaincy, always remained the way he handled the media briefings. Banter or two from him sent everyone into fits of laughter, the joke over rain during the ODI series in Karachi was perhaps his final laugh.
He may not have come from an aristocratic background but Sarfraz’s humbleness has been a plus point in his cricketing life, that initially brought him into limelight with the U-19 World Cup glory in February 2006 when Pakistan defeated India in the final at Colombo. Apart from the unfortunate Andile Phehlukwayo episode — that forced ICC to ban him for four internationals — Sarfraz had come through a tough journey since the beginning of his Pakistan career.
But now Sarfraz braces for the biggest test of his career yet. He knows he has got to perform, no matter what, to reclaim his spot in the Pakistan team. Being a fighter in his entire life, he does have the capability to prove critics wrong. The road to redemption has already began for one of the gutsiest cricketers produced by the country.
Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019