South Africa’s cricketers have such deep reservations about playing against Pakistan in their scheduled series in Abu Dhabi and Dubai next month that several senior players are considering whether to make themselves unavailable for selection.
The Proteas are due to play five ODIs and three test matches as well as a brace of T20s, the second of which was agreed to by Cricket South Africa to help with flood relief in the stricken nation.
“To say we are reluctant is an understatement,” one senior player told Telegraph Sport. “Nobody knows what the hell is going in Pakistani cricket and we feel that playing such a high profile series right now – especially in the middle east – is asking for trouble.
“Maybe it’s time for the ICC to step in, or for Pakistan to withdraw from the international game for a year until the mess can be cleaned up and people can start to believe in the game and develop a bit of trust,” the player said.
The SA Cricketers Association chief executive, Tony Irish, admitted that “many players” had expressed their concerns to him about the tour but was, for the moment, stoically maintaining a diplomatic stance.
“The fact that there are now further incidents under investigation is not good news. This all needs to be dealt with urgently in order to ensure that a heavy cloud of suspicion and doubt doesn’t hang over our series against Pakistan,” Irish said.
Asked whether he was aware that some senior players were extremely reluctant to participate in the tour, Irish said: “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Pakistan’s ‘withdrawal’ from international cricket may, of course, happen involuntarily anyway. With the ECB having ruled itself out of acting as a ‘home’ venue in the immediate future and the UAE financially unsustainable, the PCB is rapidly running out of options – not to mention willing opponents.