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PCB in 'shock and disbelief' after NZ cancel tour: What's next for the board?

The PCB's anger and frustration stems from the fear of the precedent this cancellation now sets for the future

Osman Samiuddin
Osman Samiuddin
The PCB has been left in a state of "shock and disbelief" by New Zealand's abrupt abandonment of their tour to Pakistan. New Zealand Cricket called off the tour - their first to Pakistan in 18 years - minutes before the first ODI was scheduled to start in Rawalpindi, acting on a security alert from their government. That decision has led to mounting frustration and anger within the Pakistan board, as well as fears of how it may impact their calendar this season and beyond.
The derailment of this white-ball tour began on Friday with a 3am (Pakistan time) call from the NZC to the PCB about the security alert, which, 12 hours later, led to the cancellation of the cricket without a ball being bowled. ESPNcricinfo has been told that western security agencies became aware of a specific threat they deemed credible at some point in the last 36 hours which was shared with a number of governments, including New Zealand's.
Eventually that information forced a decision to call off the tour, despite a phone call between the Prime Ministers of the countries, Imran Khan and Jacinda Ardern, in which the former (in Tajikistan on an official visit) tried to salvage the situation. Soon after the first ODI's abandonment, a Rawalpindi police advisory citing a threat to the tour issued earlier this week emerged. It is not clear if this is the advisory NZC acted upon; the PCB say New Zealand had been made aware of two events in the city (a local bodies election and a religious procession referred to in the police advisory) and the schedule had been worked around them. Discussions between the PCB and NZC did not consider a venue switch to a neutral country, primarily because it was so late in the day. In any case, the UAE, Pakistan's home in exile for nearly a decade, is ruled out because it is hosting the IPL.
The PCB, and Pakistani authorities, are nevertheless frustrated that, despite repeated attempts, no information has been shared with them regarding the threat, as well as the fact that multiple reassurances as to the visitors' safety, and the state-level security provided to them, fell on deaf ears. They also claim that NZC security advisors on the ground, the ones on whose advice NZC said they leaned on to make this decision - remained confident in the security arrangements Pakistan had put in place for the tour. One Pakistan official also asked why, if a threat had become apparent within the last 36 hours, the New Zealand side still turned up to training the day before the game.
"We're still in shock and disbelief at what has happened," one board official said. "It's mind-boggling that we've been told nothing by NZC, that no information was shared with us about any threat. Until earlier today we felt that the mood among New Zealand's players was good and they were willing to play. We were confident in any case that we had the security protocols in place to ensure this tour would go ahead without incident."
There is plenty of anger too, as was evident first in the statement which pointedly termed New Zealand's decision to leave as "unilateral", and then in the new board chairman Ramiz Raja's tweet, in which he raised the prospect of the PCB taking this to the ICC.
Having hosted more and more series in Pakistan over the last couple of years, the PCB's anger and frustration stems from the fear of the precedent this cancellation now sets for the future.
The board will no doubt reach out to reassure the ECB, whose men's and women's teams are due to tour in October; NZC and the ECB employ the same security consultants - ESI Risk - on whose behalf Reg Dickason inspected security arrangements ahead of the New Zealand tour. The ECB has already said it will make a decision within the next 24-48 hours on the fate of the tour - which would've been their first since 2005-06.
Next year in February-March, Australia are due to tour for the first time in over 20 years, but the status of that, even at this early distance, looks shaky. New Zealand women are scheduled to visit this season and the men's side are also supposed to visit again in 2022-23, for a series of Tests and ODIs.
With inputs from George Dobell

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo