The spokesman said the PCB had regularly been in touch and discussions with the England

LAHORE (APP) – Pakistan Cricket Board on Wednesday reiterated it will never compromise on the health and safety of its cricketers, adding the England and Wales Cricket Board’s decision to replace the entire playing and coaching staff for the six-match white-ball series provided a strong level of assurance to the PCB.

“As part of our duty of care, we take the health and safety of our players very seriously. In line with this, we are amongst the first boards to have got our professional men and women cricketers, as well as their coaching staff vaccinated. If we had any doubts that our players would be under any risk following the outbreak in the England camp, we would not have gone ahead with the series,” a PCB spokesman told the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP).

The ECB announced on Tuesday that seven members of the England cricket team, including three players, had tested positive but the series will continue with a new side that will be captained by Ben Stokes, who was not part of the original squad.

The spokesman said the PCB had regularly been in touch and discussions with the England and Wales Cricket Board, as well as the Pakistan team management to keep them abreast of the updates and developments. In this regard, the PCB spokesman said an online session was held in which the ECB officials and medical staff updated the Pakistan team management and the PCB officials.

“In Tuesday evening’s virtual session, the ECB officials explained that the majority of the replacement players were already part of the England team’s testing programme, while the remaining were involved in the county cricket circuit in which the players are tested twice a week. They also said the replacement England players will remain in room isolation upon check-in and will undergo a series of tests prior to taking the field on Thursday.

“The ECB officials briefed the Pakistan team management on the Covid-19 protocols and assured that the two sides were unlikely to interact or integrate outside the field of play as they will be using dressing room located at different floors and traveling on separate buses. Even on the field of play, handshakes or any close gesture will be avoided, which will further reduce chances of any type of on-the-field infection transfer.

“As England agreed their fresh unit will undergo a comprehensive testing process, which was aligned with our health and safety policy as well as cricket and Covid-19 to co-exist in the present environment, we agreed to continue with the series,” the spokesman said.

The PCB spokesman also clarified that the Pakistan squad had to observe room isolation before and after arrival in the United Kingdom as part of UK government regulations. “As part of UK government regulations and irrespective of the nationality, all inbound individuals into the United Kingdom have to undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine period. However, our side was given a dispensation to resume training after day three.”

The spokesman said postponement of the Indian Premier League, followed by COVID-19 outbreak in the England camp and outbreaks across other professional sporting environments over the past 12 months indicated there will always be element of risk despite adopting best practices and putting in place the best arrangements.

“Where we have sensed a risk for our professional players and support staffs, we have made sure that we have made a swift and decisive decision to protect their health and well-being, as was evidenced during the HBL PSL 6 postponement.

“The outbreaks that occurred in the HBL PSL 6 in March, the IPL in May and now in the England camp on Tuesday just shows once again that we continue to operate in a unique and evolving situation during these unprecedented times.

“But we also understand there are certain things that are beyond our control and all we can do is to mitigate these factors by carrying out due diligence and educating all participants to ensure processes and protocols are respected and followed.

“Our players are exceptional athletes and deserve every bit of respect for the number of days they have had to commit in bio-secure environments around the world in the past 12 months. We have also seen a high level of professionalism and resilience in how they have and continue to conduct themselves and perform on the field. This is by no means an easy thing and needs to be understood, acknowledged and appreciated.”

Thursday’s ODI will be followed by the second ODI on Saturday at Lord’s and Tuesday’s fixture at Edgbaston. The T20Is will be played on 16, 18 and 20 July, before the Pakistan team departs for the West Indies for a two Test and five T20I series that will be played from 27 July to 24 August.