West Indies tour in jeopardy as boards reportedly deadlocked over dates

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LAHORE: The West Indies’ tour of Pakistan slated for this month may be in jeopardy as the cricket boards of the two countries are currently in a deadlock over finalising the dates of the prospective tour.

According to sources, the PCB has been gunning to hold the tour in the current month of December. The speculated dates being floated around for the past few days had been in the last week of this month. Earlier, it was being reported that the first of the three T20 internationals would be played on November 23 followed by two games on November 25 and 26 respectively.

If the West Indies come to play the three-game series against Pakistan, it will be the fifth successful arrangement of international cricket in the country, and will take the Gadaffi stadium’s tally of matches this year to 8.

However, according to media sources, the West Indies cricket board is currently insisting that the tour take place in December, perhaps to accommodate the fact that they are also due to play a series against New Zealand in New Zealand in November.

And while this would have given the PCB and indeed the country more time to prepare after the hectic schedule of the PSL final, World XI tour and T20 against Sri Lanka, the board is concerned that the Lahore weather may be problematic.

Lahore is currently facing a smog epidemic worse than any in recent history, which has made visibility a major issue, especially at night. And while the stadium’s floodlights are fully functional, it is a risk the PCB would not want to take given how the lights have given out twice in the recent past, once in a match against the World XI and a few years before that in a game against the then visiting Zimbabwe.

For this reason, it had also been suggested that the tour be conducted in Karachi’s National Stadium. The Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has been loudly critical of the board for only arranging matches in Lahore and has been insisting that Karachi is prepared to bear the same as Lahore. And to his credit, the National Stadium has recently managed to get the green signal from independent security consultancy firm Eastern Star international, which works with bodies including the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Federation of International Cricketers Association.

A December series in Lahore poses a threat even if one were to neutralise the threat of smog, ais it is the month when the City often receives heavy winter showers which are often long and harsh enough to be debilitating, not just for the duration of a single game, but can also leave the pitch waterlogged and unfit for play.

This phenomenon has been observed especially in recent times because of the inability to meet the requirements of a single season by the ICC, which forces boards to host series in less than ideal weather conditions, often to no conclusion.

The schedules might also be a problem in another sense, given that the West Indies are playing against New Zealand in November. And given the less than solid stability of the Pakistan tour and the importance of New Zealand as a cricketing nation, Pakistan will probably receive a team of second rate players. Even in the Sri Lanka T20, there were a few players called up from the team’s reserves to play in place of those that refused to come.

If the West Indies does agree to play in November as the PCB wants, the team that comes will be unrecognisable. And this will be felt all the more given how large the fanbase is for West Indies stars because of the PSL and the World XI tour.