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England cricket tour: Pakistan PM Imran Khan says English 'let themselves down'

Former captain says the English team would not have dared to do the same to India
Imran Khan pointed out that Pakistan toured England in July 2021 during the Covid lockdown (AFP)

Imran Khan, the only world class cricketer to become the prime minister of his country , has displayed a truly British stiff upper lip in his first recorded reaction to the cancellation of the English cricket tour of Pakistan.

The former captain of Pakistan told Middle East Eye: “England let themselves down, because I expected a bit more from England. I did not expect them to act unilaterally without consulting anyone.”

The decision, announced on 20 September, has been met with fury among Pakistan cricket fans. It also contributed to the resignation of English Cricket Board chairman Ian Watmore last week, amid criticism that it failed to honour a debt owed to Pakistan when it toured England during the summer.

In a moment of deep embarrassment for the England Cricket Board, the British High Commission in Islamabad distanced itself from the decision, making clear through social media that it had been in favour of the tour going ahead.

'There is still this feeling in England that they do a great favour to play countries like Pakistan'

- Imran Khan

In an interview with Middle East Eye, Khan said that “There is still this feeling in England that they do a great favour to play countries like Pakistan”.

He also said that England would not have dared to do the same to India “because they know that, [with] the sums involved, India can sort of produce much more money. Money is a big player now for the players as well as the cricket board. [The] Indian cricket board is the richest, so India basically controls world cricket.”

The Pakistan prime minister also criticised New Zealand for cancelling their tour on 17 September after a bomb threat. The Black Caps called off their tour only minutes before the first match was due to begin in Rawalpindi in September, despite Khan speaking to Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister.

Khan said that the threat was “fake news" and added: “The biggest worry for the protection of foreign teams is for us. Imagine if something happens in Pakistan. We are responsible and we have one of the best intelligence agencies in the world."

Khan: England move 'disappointing'

The cancellation of the crickets tours by England and New Zealand is an especially bruising blow to Pakistan. International teams have, until recently, avoided visiting the country since the attack by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in March 2009, which killed six policemen and two civilians, as well as injuring six members of the cricket team, two staff and a reserve umpire. England’s tour in October would have been its first visit to Pakistan since 2005.

Khan acknowledged that the decision was “disappointing” and pointed out that Pakistan toured England in July 2021 during the Covid lockdown.

“They should ask themselves the question, what would they have thought if some country did that to them,” he said.

Khan is regarded as one of the all-time greats of cricket. During his 21-year career as a batsman and bowler, he captained Pakistan to World Cup victory in 1992, with a famous victory over England in the final. Two of his first cousins, Masjid Khan and Javid Burki, have also captained Pakistan.