Chris Silverwood says he would have "no problem" leading a tour to Pakistan, after Wasim Khan, the PCB chief executive, expressed his hope that England will send a T20 team to the country ahead of their next scheduled visit in 2022.
England have not toured Pakistan since 2005-06 due to security concerns. But, before the Covid-19 pandemic, hopes had risen that they would return to the country in two years' time, and Silverwood, the England head coach, has signalled his willingness to go.
"For me it's great that it's a topic of conversation again," Silverwood said. "We are looking to get back there."
Speaking on Sky Sports during the first day's play at Emirates Old Trafford, Wasim had echoed the sentiments of West Indies' captain, Jason Holder, who used his final press conference after last week's third Test to call on the ECB to stage a reciprocal tour of the Caribbean in the wake of their own two-month tour.
Pakistan, like West Indies, are helping the ECB fulfil their contractual obligations to Sky, at significant inconvenience to their own players, who have already been in the country for a month and remain in lockdown, and Silverwood said that he would be open to returning the favour.
"Personally, I'd have no problem going," he said. "I've never been so it would be nice to go and have a look. And I know our batsmen are looking forward to batting on their wickets. We are getting there [in terms of planning]."
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Wasim said that he hoped England could send a T20 side to Pakistan. He accepted that "finding time in the FTP (future tours programme) could be the challenge at this stage" but suggested that a Lions tour, something he was calling for ahead of the dawn of Covid-19, would be "excellent as an alternative".
While the ECB clarified there was no specific on-going discussion on the subject at present, it is not inconceivable the present global situation and the backlog in international fixtures could accelerate the usage of separate squads in red and white ball cricket.
England used something close to an A team for their recently concluded ODI series against Ireland - the final game featured four of the England XI that won the World Cup final - and they could potentially satisfy more requests for tours if they were to do so more often. West Indies have also expressed hopes England will tour in the coming months as they grapple with the financial ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Whether such tours take place or not, England's schedule is likely to prove hectic in the coming months. A limited-overs tour of South Africa is currently pencilled in for December, while they hope to return to Sri Lanka in January to fulfil the Test tour that was called off in March. They are then expected to play a five-Test series against India which may well take place in the UAE. The IPL runs from September 19 to November 8.
As head coach, Silverwood retains overall responsibility for the direction of the England squads, even though he delegated white-ball responsibility to Paul Collingwood for the recent Ireland series. And although the England ended on a low with defeat in the third ODI, Silverwood admitted that the circumstances had had its benefits in forcing England to blood a range of new and less experienced players.
"It always hurts to lose, but sometimes you learn your best lessons when you do," said Silverwood. "You take things on board, but overall a series win is very good for them and it's great to see the likes of Tom Banton getting scores and being mixed in amongst World Cup winners. It can only be a bonus for them to play alongside them."
Before Covid-19 struck, it did seem the chances of England returning to Pakistan were growing all the time. Many England players had played in the PSL games staged in the country, while others had gone as part of an MCC tour. It is understood security reports were far more positive than they had been even a couple of years ago and there was every expectation that 2022 tour would take place in Pakistan.
Whether there could be scope for a T20 tour before that date remains to be seen. England, in particular, have a hectic international schedule so it might require the selection of something of a shadow squad - a bit like the ODI side that played Ireland - to satisfy Wasim's request. The ECB have confirmed that, at present, there are no plans for a tour to Pakistan before 2022.