Southampton: Wasim Akram has insisted England “owe” Pakistan for proceeding with their ongoing tour amid the coronavirus pandemic as he urged English officials to honour a planned returned visit in 2022.
England have not visited Pakistan since 2005/06. An attack by armed militants on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore in 2009 ended major cricket tours for a decade.
But Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, West Indies and Bangladesh have all since made the trip.
Pakistan are currently playing the second Test of a three-match series at Southampton, which follows an England-West Indies series last month that marked international cricket’s return from lockdown.
Both teams, among the poorer Test nations, have been praised for travelling to Britain, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak and helping spare the England and Wales Cricket Board an estimated £280 million ($366 million) loss if their scheduled matches were wiped out by the virus.
“You (England) boys owe Pakistan cricket, and the country, a lot, with the boys coming over here,” Pakistan great Akram told Sky Sports on Sunday.
And he said the fact English players had taken part in this year’s edition of the Pakistan Super League, a Twenty20 franchise tournament, should encourage the ECB in thinking it was safe to send the national side there as well.
“The English players were there for the Pakistan Super League in our team, Karachi Kings — Alex Hales and Chris Jordan,” said Akram, arguably the best left-arm fast bowler in cricket history.
“They loved it, they enjoyed it, they got looked after beautifully and I must give credit to the government of Pakistan, the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Pakistan team and their staff.”
‘Thank you for coming’
England off-spinner Moeen Ali told Sky he had been taken aback by the enthusiastic reception he had received from Pakistan fans.
“It’s not the cricket performances you get congratulated for,” said Moeen, who is not part of the current Test squad but did feature in world champions England’s recent one-day international series against Ireland.
“Everyone says ‘thank you for coming’.
“They just want international players to come and be part of the cricket culture here and it’s been amazing.”
Moeen added: “The hardest bit was to be hotel-bound — at times you just want to go out during the day, to a shopping mall or something, but I think in the coming years they will allow more time to go out.”
The current England-Pakistan series, as was the case with the West Indies Tests, is being played behind closed doors, with the teams staying in onsite hotels as an additional measure to guard against the spread of COVID-19 by creating a bio-secure bubble.
Pakistan are also due to play three Twenty20 internationals against England after the Test series finishes and Akram said: “They’ve been here almost two and-a-half-months in the bio-secure (bubble). So if everything goes well, England should tour Pakistan.
“I promise you they’ll get looked after on and off the field there and every game will be a packed house.”
Earlier this month, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief executive Wasim Khan said he hoped England could tour before their planned trip in two years’ time.
“England are due to tour in 2022, and we’d love to have them coming over well before then for a shorter tour,” said Khan, a Birmingham-born former batsman with several English counties.
“It’s something that we’ll speak to the ECB about.”