England put faith in Pakistan security advice as concerns mount in wake of Imran Khan shooting

 

Ben Stokes, England’s Test captain, says that his team will put its faith in the ECB’s security delegation ahead of their tour of Pakistan, amid concerns that next month’s first Test in Rawalpindi could require a switch of venue following last week’s attempted assassination of the former Prime Minister, Imran Khan.

 

Imran, Pakistan’s victorious captain in the 1992 World Cup, was replaced as Prime Minister earlier this year following a vote of no confidence in the national parliament. On November 3, he sustained bullet wounds to his lower leg, after being shot at during a protest rally in the city of Wazirabad, about 180km south-east of the capital, Islamabad. One person was killed in the attack, with at least ten others wounded.

 

Speaking in Adelaide, where he is preparing for Thursday’s T20 World Cup semi-final against India, Stokes acknowledged that the incident had caused some concern within the England squad, but said that he and his players would place “100 percent trust” in their veteran security advisor, Reg Dickason, who has overseen England’s touring arrangements for more than a decade.

 

“Obviously what happened there last week was a bit of a shock to see,” Stokes told reporters in Adelaide. “But we’ve currently got Reg Dickason out there.

 

 

“He’s been the main [security] man for England for many years now. In my opinion he’s the best man to be out there to assess the situation.

 

“But we can’t really comment on anything until we’ve all the information back from Reg once he’s out there. But the players and the people going out on that tour 100 percent trust him. He’s a man you trust with your life, Reg.”

 

In the wake of last month’s successful staging of seven T20Is in Karachi and Lahore, there is no suggestion at this stage that the tour is under direct threat. It is understood that the ECB – which attracted criticism for its abrupt cancellation of last year’s goodwill visit to the country – is keen to allow the situation to stabilise before any decisions have to be made.

 

Nevertheless, supporters of Imran’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI), are expected to resume their “long march” towards the capital later this week, as they continue their demands for a general election, meaning they are likely to pass through Rawalpindi towards the third week of November.

 

That date is likely to overlap with England’s anticipated arrival from their training camp in Dubai on November 26-27, with the first Test at Rawalpindi – England’s first in the country since 2005 – set to begin on December 1. England are due to play two subsequent Tests, in Multan from December 9-13 and Karachi from December 17-21.

 

This week, the first day of the Quaid-e-Azam trophy match between Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in Rawalpindi had to be postponed due to ongoing public protests by Imran’s supporters, who blocked the Pindi-Islamabad highway on Monday.

 

The PCB held a meeting with the local government in an attempt to determine the fate of the QEA game. However, it wasn’t clear on Tuesday whether the game would be able to start on Wednesday or be further delayed.

 

Dickason, who heads up the security firm ESI Risk, is expected to leave for Pakistan later this week, after he has overseen the arrival of England’s ODI players ahead of their three-match series against Australia next week. His previous involvement with the England squad includes the 2016 tour of Bangladesh, which took place in the wake of a terrorist attack in the capital, Dhaka.

 

“We have the best security officer in the world in Reg Dickason trying to find out information for us,” Stokes added. “Whatever Reg says, the players and the ECB will listen because he knows exactly what he is doing.”

 

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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