Players are cooped up in their rooms like prison cells and there is nowhere to go. The security just won’t let you out. There are only so many trivia and card nights that you can do before boredom sets in. The gym and pool becomes a burden and all you do is sit in your rooms. And that’s when the problems start.
As a head coach in the Pakistan Super League, I know that when players have too much time to themselves, they have a tendency to think too much: dwelling on how they got out or personal issues. Their minds can become their enemies.
A current theme around the cricketing world is how we can help cricketers with their mental welfare. Going to countries like Pakistan, with overwhelming security, can wear on you.
When I was in Karachi earlier this year, the Pakistan government had more than 10,000 troops protecting us. Looking at heavily armed soldiers and being surrounded by heavily armoured vehicles, with two or three helicopters hovering above you, is not something you can ignore. With this level of security, you can’t help but think that we must seriously be a target to someone.
With this level of protection, the Pakistan government spends between $400,000 and $500,000 a day on security. If Australia toured Pakistan in 2020, they would probably schedule just two Tests and three T20s over three weeks – that’s a cost of nearly $10 million.
I hope we do return there for the sake of world cricket and Australia’s important relationship with Pakistan.
Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts
I asked Cricket Australia CEO Kevin Roberts whether CA was happy to send players to play in the PSL and when Australia was likely to tour Pakistan next.
“We share Pakistan’s desire for international cricket to return to their country and we’re encouraged to see Sri Lanka agreeing to a two-Test series there next month,” Roberts said.
“We won’t be rushing into a decision. We will continue to monitor the situation, consult with experts and evolve the discussions from my recent visit to Islamabad. First and foremost in our thinking is the safety of our players and staff.
“That said, things appear to be heading in the right direction as Pakistan’s home Test series against Sri Lanka would suggest. I hope we do return there for the sake of world cricket and Australia’s important relationship with Pakistan.”
Here is the kicker that I feel many of the cricket boards, past players, media and fans forget. With the levels of security, being caged in a hotel for up to one month is not fun. The fun factor is a major component for successful teams and some players will not go for just this reason alone.
Players occasionally can also shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to making their decision on whether they should tour a country such as Pakistan. During the recent PSL, many players were paid extra appearance money to play in Pakistan. I was furious over this decision, as many coaches and staff were not offered the same. It meant that these players’ lives were more important than ours.
Some players said they would not go to Pakistan due to the security and potential terrorist threats and yet accepted extra money to tour when it was offered.
I am confused with their intentions or priorities. Is money now more important than their safety?
In 2009, the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked by 12 terrorists, where six Pakistani police and two civilians were shot and killed. One umpire was shot twice and fortunately survived. Several Sri Lankan team members were injured.
But time does heal all wounds. Everywhere in the world, players just have to accept there will be a heavy security team with them wherever they travel. Sadly, touring is nowhere near as much fun as it used to be.
Dean Jones is a former Australian cricketer