Smog postpones West Indies tour till March next

Karachi - The much-awaited tour of West Indies cricket team to play a three-match Twenty20 series in Pakistan later this month has been postponed, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials revealed on Monday.

A senior PCB official said that thick levels of smog in Lahore [where the matches were expected to be played] and the commitment of the West Indies' players to participate in Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) became the reasons for postponement of the bilateral Twenty20 series.

"The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) had agreed that the West Indies will tour Pakistan in November, but now it is unlikely to happen because of the smog and some other reasons," the official said.

According to the PCB official, the meteorological department was also unable to predict an exact date for the decrease in smog, which also led to postponement of the T20 series. He added that the PCB has also decided to shift the Super Eight matches of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy from Punjab to elsewhere because of smog.

The sources said that there is no possibility of the event happening till December 2017, adding that the board is trying its best to take the word of West Indies Cricket Board and announce the new date within a next few days.

According to 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.

The sources further said that six West Indian players including Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo have refused to visit Pakistan for the tour games despite the successful Sri Lanka T20 game, which was played at the Gaddafi Stadium Lahore.

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.

A proposed December series in Lahore poses a threat even if one were to neutralise the threat of smog, as 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.

A PCB official said that both the boards are deliberating upon other possible dates to hold the series. With no possibility of conducting the T20 series in November and December, the tour will now take place after March 2018.



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