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Pak players to train for England tour in bio-secure conditions


May 21, 2020

KARACHI: Pakistan’s extended squad comprising both Test and Twenty20 International specialists will begin training for this summer’s tour of England in Lahore early next month.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is creating a ‘bio-secure’ environment at Lahore’s NCA and Gaddafi Stadium – the venue of the training camp – and the players will then stay in England in a similar environment during the Test and T20I series in England during July-August.

This means that Pakistan’s squad which will comprise of 25-27 players will have to spend around three months in a controlled, bio-secure environment because of the Covid-19 situation.

That’s one of the reason why, PCB chiefs, in a meeting with the players, gave them the option to withdraw from the tour which is likely to be finalized early next month.

However, reliable sources told ‘The News’ that not a single Pakistani players is likely to withdraw from the assignment despite any health risks posed by it.

“There hasn’t been any cricket since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and the players are now itching to get back to action. And also a tour of England is regarded as a very important and prestigious assignment and none of the players would want to miss it,” a source said.

Meanwhile, according to the PCB plan, players will stay at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore from early June to resume training in pairs, and gradually will move to Gaddafi Stadium across the road for three weeks in a larger group setting.

Pakistan are scheduled to play three Tests in August followed by a series of three T20Is, with the matches taking place behind closed doors as part of measures to combat Covid-19. The two boards held a meeting last week in which the ECB talked the PCB through plans to keep players in a bio-secure environment, from the moment they land in the country, with a two-week quarantine period on arrival.

PCB executives held a meeting with players and the coaching staff alongside with the medical department this week. They were briefed about the arrangements for the tour and informed about the possibility of having to stay together from June through the whole of the England tour until their return back home.

“It seems the Pakistan cricket team will have to remain under a strict bio-secure environment for up to three months,” Wasim Khan told media in a statement. “Players will be given an option to withdraw if they are still not satisfied with the provisions that will be put in place; full details will be provided in the coming weeks.”

It is understood that PCB is creating a bubble that include the training, lodging, catering facility at the NCA and Gaddafi Stadium next door.

A squad of around 25 players - which will include both red and white-ball specialists - will gather in early June, starting with a full-fledged medical assessment with players divided into pairs for training sessions. The size of the groups grow every week, until the whole squad is training in together in the last week of the camp.

Players will have to follow strict protocols, and will be given a detailed awareness programme to adapt the “unprecedented situation”. Khan said last week: “We’re not going to force any player to tour if they don’t feel comfortable.”

Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis are working with Dr Sohail Saleem, the head of the PCB’s medical and sports science department, on scheduling the training session in pockets following the principle of medical guidelines. Presently, the Pakistan government hasn’t allowed for the resumption of sports activities in the country, but by the end of the month it is expected to have eased restrictions for elite sportspeople. —with inputs from agencies