PCB scraps plans for Lahore training camp over Covid-19 concerns
Departure for England tour could be brought forward as PCB mulls options
Plans to create a bio-secure environment for Pakistan's training camp ahead of their tour of England have been shelved following the rapid growth of coronavirus cases in the country. A press release from the PCB on Tuesday said "keeping the players in a safe and secure environment" would have been "a challenge" after ESPNcricinfo reported that it had become increasingly difficult for the board to construct a secure bubble between player lodgings and the training facility.
The Pakistan squad had been expected to fly in the first week of July
, with their first four weeks in England meant for quarantine and training, but the PCB and ECB are in discussions with to move the travel date forward by one week. Under current UK government rules, those arriving from outside the country will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine period.
Pakistan's rescheduled tour is expected to feature three Tests in August followed by a series of three T20Is, with the matches taking place behind closed doors as part of unprecedented measures to combat Covid-19. The ECB has come up with extensive plans to keep Pakistan's players in a bio-secure environment - likely to be in Birmingham initially - from the moment they land in the country. Prior to that PCB was hoping to hold a training camp in Lahore, at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and Gaddafi Stadium, where a 25-man squad would reside and train in a completely isolated area.
However, the plan to bring Pakistan's players out of lockdown hit a snag first
with the fact the NCA isn't capable of housing a large group. The PCB then considered making players stay at a five-star hotel about 8km away from the training facility. But with the sudden hike in coronavirus cases, concerns have been raised about the ability to maintain a fully secure environment and the need to tightly regulate player movements.
Pakistan's government has recently eased the lockdown situation in the country, encouraging the public to follow health guidelines despite a worsening situation in Lahore and Karachi and expectations the peak of the virus will not come for some weeks. Pakistan has currently more than 100,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and more than 2000 deaths.
On Monday, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the reopening of many businesses and industries, including tourism. However, all contact sports, indoor sports clubs, indoor gyms, indoor sports facilities, and sporting tournaments/matches (indoors and outdoors) remain shut.
All sport, including cricket, in the country has been on hold since March 16, when most players were last active in the PSL. There have been reports of a few centrally contracted players going for nets on their own. In the last three months, their fitness has been monitored by the national trainer with detailed guidelines and customised workouts to stay fit. Players also underwent fitness tests via video link and over 90% reached the required benchmark, which was lowered due to being in isolation with limited facilities.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent