England should “definitely” tour Pakistan provided it it is safe to do so, according to new England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Ian Watmore.
England have not visited Pakistan since 2005/06. An attack by armed militants on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore in 2009 ended major cricket tours for a decade, with Pakistan forced to play ‘home’ matches in the United Arab Emirates.
But other countries have since made the trip, with England scheduled to return to Pakistan in 2022.
English players have also taken part in the Pakistan Super League.
Both Pakistan and the West Indies, two of world cricket’s financially poorer nations, have helped spare the ECB losses that could have totalled hundreds of millions of pounds by going ahead with tours of England even when Britain was badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It would be brilliant for us and for the game there to get cricket back on,” said Watmore on Tuesday, just hours before Pakistan’s tour concludes with the third Twenty20 international against England at Old Trafford.
“With Pakistan back hosting cricket we should definitely go and tour there if it’s at all safe to do so.”
In his first day in post since succeeding Colin Graves, the 62-year-old Watmore, a former businessman and civil servant, who was briefly chief executive of England’s governing Football Association, also discussed the financial problems facing the ECB a a result of Covid-19 during a wide-ranging media conference.
Even though Pakistan and the West Indies, as well as Australia and Ireland, have all come over for behind closed doors series, the ECB is still facing a £100 million ($134 million) shortfall and Watmore said job cuts at the board were “inevitable”.
The coronavirus has delayed the introduction of the controversial ‘Hundred’ competition but Watmore defended the new 100-balls per side tournament as a way of attracting new audiences and for its role in helping to professionalise domestic women’s cricket.
Graves suggested six of England’s existing 18 first-class counties might no longer play red-ball cricket in future but Watmore said he thought that each one could remain active across all formats, while “developing England players of the future”.
“Each county can play its part in the future of English cricket in addition to playing in the core tournaments,” he said.
“If the economics and performance standards don’t allow that, or the individual counties decide they want to do something different, then that is a conversation, but it is not where I’m coming from as I come into this job.”
With the retirement of Lord Kamlesh Patel, the ECB board is now entirely composed of white members, something Watmore said was “not acceptable in the long run”.