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While Pakistan’s chances of touring England are looking bleak in the wake of ten players testing positive for Covid-19, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is reportedly confident of the series going ahead as scheduled. Pakistan are set to visit England soon for a Test and T20I series. They are scheduled to play three Tests and as many T20Is in England in August and September.
However, there are big question marks over the tour after the PCB announced the result of the Covid-19 tests. A day after three players – Shadab Khan, Haider Ali and Haris Rauf – were tested positive for the virus, the PCB announced seven more players who tested positive for the deadly virus. The seven players are – Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Hasnain, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Hafeez, Wahab Riaz and Imran Khan. Malang Ali (masseur), a member of the team’s support staff, in also on the list.
Moments after the result came out, PCB CEO Wasim Khan called a video conference to stress that the tour of England is still on. He stressed that Pakistan’s plans to travel to Manchester from Lahore on a chartered flight remains unchanged even though only 19 of the 29 players selected for the tour are available at the moment.
According to The News, Wasim contacted top England Cricket Board (ECB) officials and sought their support. The ECB officials told Wasim that they were confident that the tour could go on despite the flurry of positive tests.
For the time being, PCB will test Bilal Asif, Imran Butt, Musa Khan and Mohammad Nawaz who are the four reserve players. In addition, Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s head coach and chief selector, will now pick more reserve players in order to bolster the squad in case some of the positive cases are unable to make it to England. The newly-chosen back-up players will immediately undergo testing.
“The tour to England is very much on track and the side will depart as per schedule on 28 June,” said Wasim.
“Fortunately, all the first-choice red-ball squad, barring Mohammad Rizwan, are negative, which means they can start training and practicing immediately after they have been tested and given the all clear when they arrive in England. As regards the players, who have tested positive, we will continue to monitor and support them, including conducting antibody tests, and as soon as they test negative, they will be flown to join the squad in England. At the moment, they have been advised to go into self-isolation so that they not only recover quickly but also prevent their other family members from being infected,” he added.