David Collier, the chief executive of the ECB, has said that Pakistan are unlikely to be welcomed back to England for any series outside the Future Tours Programme, after relationships between the two boards dipped to a new low following the allegations from the PCB chairman, Ijaz Butt, that England's players accepted a bribe to lose the third ODI at The Oval on Friday.
Earlier this summer, Pakistan played a series of two Tests and two Twenty20s against Australia in England, having been prevented from hosting their own home internationals due to security concerns following last year's shootings in Lahore. There had been tentative plans for further such matches to take place in 2011, but Collier admitted that this was now effectively off the agenda.
"We have been through difficult times before with Pakistan, as we all remember," said Collier. "They'll certainly be part of the Future Tours Programme in the future, [although] it's not for a few years that Pakistan are due to tour the UK. We are working with them on a number of [neutral] games, but we have to give it time. Time is a great healer, but now and probably next year is not the right time to consider that."
Speaking to Sky Sports during the interval of the fourth ODI at Lord's, Collier explained how a meeting involving the ECB and the England team management, that got underway at 9pm on Sunday night, ended up being extended into the early hours of Monday morning. A strongly worded joint statement was eventually released an hour before the start of the game today, in which the ECB promised to support any moves from the players towards legal action.
"The players were obviously incensed by the allegation, and quite rightly so," said Collier. "The ICC have made it very, very clear that there were no England players were under any suspicion, therefore we have made the statements we've made today.
"There were some very difficult decisions for everybody to have to make, including the players, and I pay extreme credit to the players for the way they have conducted themselves throughout the whole series, not just for the past 24-48 hours. There was true leadership last night, and a lot of soul-searching, and I think the players, and the PCA, who have worked very closely with us, deserve a lot of credit."
When asked how close the series had come to a cancellation, Collier admitted that "all options" had been examined, although the decision to play on had hinged on two key points. "One is the precedent," he said. "If a comment is made, do we cancel a tour in the future, and that was a concern to the board. The second concern was that we didn't learn until the middle of the afternoon yesterday, and a lot of people would have travelled for this game already. We owe it to the general public to put on a show."
"It has been an extraordinary two to three weeks, and a very sad two to three weeks," he added. "A lot of people have been under an awful lot of pressure, no-one more so than the chairman of the Pakistan board, who has been very much at the forefront of all of the response from the [PCB]. He's done a lot of travelling during that period, so that is the sympathy that we have.
"This is different to anything I've experienced in cricket because has been over a prolonged period of time, not just one or two days, but the bigger concern is for the game as a whole," said Collier. "The most important thing is that integrity is at the heart of the sport. If there is a cancer in the game, we have to get rid of it and it doesn't matter where in the world it is and which team is involved. At the chief executives meeting last weekend, we made it very clear that there had to be zero tolerance, and we had to get it cut out of the game, if it is there."