New Zealand’s decision to call off their series in Pakistan on Friday just as the first ODI was about to start is not the first time the global cricket calendar has been upended by an abandoned tour.
1968: The D’Oliveira Affair
Basil D’Oliveira, who as a ‘Cape Coloured’ was unable to play cricket in his native South Africa due to apartheid, came to Britain and eventually forced his way into the England side.
Despite his superb 158 against Australia at The Oval in the final Test of the 1968 Ashes, D’Oliveira was dramatically omitted from the England squad for the tour of South Africa, sparking a huge furore.
Yet, when Tom Cartwright, a bowler, withdrew from the squad through injury, he was replaced by D’Oliveira, a batting all-rounder.
John Vorster, South Africa’s prime minister, responded to D’Oliveira’s inclusion by threatening to refuse him entry into the country, saying: “The MCC [England] team is not the team of the MCC but of the anti-apartheid movement.”
MCC then called off the tour because of attempts to influence the selection of their squad, sparking South Africa’s more than two decades of isolation from international cricket.
2009: Sri Lanka in Pakistan
Sri Lanka were on their way to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore to play the third day of the second Test against Pakistan when their team bus was attacked by armed militants, who killed eight people, with several players and officials wounded.
“All hell broke loose,” recalled Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakkara. “We hid in the aisle of the bus, everyone on top of each other really, and then the shooting started … and for some reason, I don’t know why, we all survived.”
The attack led to Pakistan becoming a ‘no-go’ zone for major international cricket sides, with ‘home’ matches having to be played in the United Arab Emirates instead.
2020: England in South Africa
England abandoned their ODI series tour of South Africa following a lack of confidence in the bio-secure bubble the two teams were living in as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first ODI was postponed at an hour’s notice due to one of South Africa’s players testing positive for Covid-19. Attempts to get the game going on other days were thwarted by two hotel staff, and then two of England’s party, also testing positive – although by the time these turned out to be false positives the series had been postponed.
2021: India in England
Earlier this month, with India 2-1 up and on the brink of a historic series win, the fifth and deciding Test against England in Manchester was dramatically cancelled just over two hours before the scheduled start because of Covid-19 concerns in the tourists’ camp.
A reported positive test by a second physiotherapist appeared to be the last straw for an India squad already without head coach Ravi Shastri, and two other backroom staff, who had all previously contracted the coronavirus.
India’s decision left English cricket facing a £40-million ($55m) ‘black hole’, with the result of the series set to be decided by the ICC.
“The players refused to play but you can’t blame them,” BCCI president Sourav Ganguly told Kolkata daily The Telegraph. “They feared they must have contracted the disease and were dead scared,” the former India captain added.
2021: New Zealand in Pakistan
New Zealand abandoned a white-ball series in Pakistan just as the first ODI in Rawalpindi was about to start Friday on security grounds, citing advice from the New Zealand government and their advisers on the ground.
NZC chief executive David White said Pakistan had been “wonderful hosts”, but added “player safety is paramount and we believe this is the only responsible option”.
But newly installed PCB chairman Ramiz Raja, a former Pakistan captain, tweeted: “Walking out of the tour by taking a unilateral approach on a security threat is very frustrating. Especially when it’s not shared!!”
Raja added: “Which world is NZ living in?? NZ will hear us at ICC.”
© Agence France-Presse