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Lack of bio-secure conditions hampers Pakistan’s preparations


June 3, 2020

KARACHI: Pakistan are facing major hurdles in their preparations for this summer’s tour of England because of the Covid-19 situation.

The country’s cricket chiefs had planned a full-fledged training camp for 25-30 players in the lead up to the tour but were unable to line up proper, bio-secure conditions for the exercise. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) wants the preliminary squad to train at Lahore’s National Cricket Academy, completely isolated from the rest of the world. It also wants to maintain social distancing in order to ensure the players’ health and safety.

Players and team management had already been briefed by the PCB's medical panel about training under a controlled environment. The plan was to bring 25 to 30 athletes to the NCA, where they would stay and train in pairs from early June onwards. Next, they would move across the road to Gaddafi stadium for a three-week camp that would include training in larger groups. Finally, those picked for the England tour would fly over in early July. Pakistan are to play three Tests and three Twenty20 Internationals in England during July-August.

The problem, however, is that the NCA's lodging facilities currently have only 21 rooms available. As many as 40 are needed to implement proper social distancing. Additionally, no one will be allowed to enter or leave the premises.

PCB officials remain hopeful of making it work and could look into splitting the camp between two venues. Another issue will be that some of the coaching staff are outside the country. Bowling coach Waqar Younis is based in Australia and physiotherapist Cliffe Deacon in South Africa.

The selection committee has finalised a list of probables for the camp but will only admit those who test negative for Covid-19.

The PCB is yet to reach out to the provincial and federal governments for support. But the board did come up with the return-to-training ground rules with help from various medical experts and guidelines put forward by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Sohail Saleem, head of PCB medical panel, has been in touch with the ECB to confirm Standard Operating Procedures on how to run camps in these unprecedented circumstances. The ICC's guidelines have also been incorporated into these plans, a final draft of which will be submitted to the ICC for review.

All sport in the country has been on hold since March, and most of the cricketers were last active in the PSL. There have been reports of a few centrally contracted players going for nets but the PCB is believed to be unaware of those developments.

There are more than 70,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Pakistan and cases are on the rise. Restrictions in the country are starting to ease with Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday announcing the reopening of many businesses and industries, including tourism. However, all contact sports, indoor sports clubs, indoor gyms, indoor sports facilities; sporting tournaments/ matches (indoors and outdoors) remain shut. In case the government refuses to allow any sporting activity in the country, then the PCB is likely to request a special permission to ensure the England tour goes ahead. —with inputs from agencies