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Touring England during the pandemic is a big risk, admits PCB medical official
Pakistan News

Touring England during the pandemic is a big risk, admits PCB medical official

Dr Sohail Saleem, PCB's director of medical and sports sciences, has conceded that the upcoming tour of England poses a huge risk to players and officials amidst the health crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Although Pakistan's touring party will be placed in a "bio-secure" bubble once they reach England in order to eliminate chances of exposure to the virus, Saleem maintained that the individuals were at risk but it was necessary for the restoration of international cricket.

The extended drought of competitive cricket is set to come to an end with the first Test between West Indies and England on July 8 while Pakistan's series with the hosts will commence towards the end of next month.

“During the pandemic, it’s [the tour] a big risk,” Saleem told reporters in a video conference on Monday.

“We haven’t experienced [playing during a pandemic], but for both teams, it will be a first. The pandemic means risk, but consider them [players] as ... providing people entertainment.”

All matches will be conducted amidst empty stands, mirroring the return of football in Europe where the Bundesliga in Germany and the English Premier League have resumed without spectators.

“There’s no crowd in football and there will be no spectators at cricket stadiums too,” Saleem said.

As part of the safety protocols, Pakistan's players and accompanying support personnel will undergo two rounds of testing before boarding the plane for England.

To combat the issue of travel restrictions, the PCB named a 29-member squad comprising of both white-ball and red-ball specialists for the forthcoming three Tests and three T20Is.

After landing in England, the players will again go through a testing session right before the two-week quarantine period and will then be regularly be screened and tested once training begins.

While the complete results of the first round of testing are yet to be revealed, Shadab Khan, Haider Ali and Haris Rauf have already tested positive for the virus, reinforcing Saleem's point regarding the tour being a "big risk".

“After every 5-7 days we will be carrying out testing of the players in the UK,” he said.

“Three days before the start of the first Test another round of testing of all the players will be done and if a player tests positive, he will be quarantined. We have set the protocol with the England and Wales Cricket Board.”

The national side's players have largely been confined to their homes since the sudden postponement of the Pakistan Super League ahead of the knockout stages in March. Bereft of professional training facilities, Saleem noted the possibility of the cricketers being affected by the absence of sporting activity.

"Players could have been mentally affected, but it’s affecting even the common man."

He also mentioned how the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) cooperated with the PCB to ensure the team's early departure to the country. According to the original itinerary, the players were supposed to meet for a training camp in Lahore but a spike in coronavirus cases led to the cancellation of such plans.

“We had a meeting with the head coach about how much time he needed [to get the players ready] and he said at least 5-6 weeks were required. It was not possible in Pakistan, but the ECB provided us maximum time to train in a bio-secure environment.”