Shoaib Akhtar, the former express paceman, has launched an extraordinary tirade against New Zealand Cricket after the Pakistan side were threatened with deportation should there be any further breach of Covid-19 safety measures on their part.
Wasim Khan, the PCB CEO, contacted the Pakistan players through a WhatsApp voice message to press home the need for the players to observe bio-secure bubble protocols, saying “they (New Zealand government) have a zero-tolerance policy, and they’ve given us a final warning”.
Pakistan are set to play three T20Is and two Tests in New Zealand, but after landing in Auckland, as many as six players tested positive for Covid-19, even as the PCB claimed there were no Covid cases in the team when they flew from Lahore.
New Zealand have been among the countries that have fared better in the battle against the pandemic – they have had, in all, 2,047 cases at the time of writing, and at one point went over a 100 days without a new Covid-19 case.
Akhtar, however, hasn’t taken kindly to the New Zealand government’s warning. “New Zealand’s comment that if Pakistan’s team’s SOP (standard-operating procedures) is not in place then we will cancel the tour is below the belt,” Akhtar said in a video on his YouTube channel.
“I want to give a message to New Zealand board (NZC) that this is not a club team, it’s Pakistan national cricket team. We don’t need you. Our cricket has not finished. You will get the broadcasting rights money. So, you should be indebted to us that we decided to tour your country in such difficult times.
“You are talking about Pakistan – the greatest country on the planet – so behave yourself and stop giving such statement. Be careful next time. Pakistan team now needs to smash them in T20 series.”
Akhtar also urged the PCB to exhibit more “toughness” when dealing with the New Zealand authorities. “The PCB should show some toughness,” he said. “If I was in their place, I would have given a statement saying that if New Zealand Cricket aren’t happy, we won’t play them and will bring our team back and we won’t play against you for five years.”
Khan, however, has impressed on the Pakistan players that “national pride” is at stake. “This is a matter of national pride,” Khan was quoted as saying in the voice note. “It would be very embarrassing if they end up sending the team back. I know it’s very tough and difficult, but stay disciplined and follow the protocols they have set. We have no margin for error with the New Zealand government. This is a final warning. They will not compromise on health and safety. Do what’s right for your country.”